A proposed multimillion-dollar Animas River Trail bridge at 32nd Street split Durango City Council one week before the board is scheduled to approve $3.4 million for the project in the 2020 city budget.
Durango city staff expect contractors could construct a pedestrian bridge next year, connecting the Animas River Trail on the east side of the river with a now-under-construction segment of trail stretching from Animas City Park to Oxbow Park and Preserve.
The proposed bridge would span above the Animas River, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad tracks and 32nd Street. City staff included the project in the proposed 2020 budget and expect, if funding is approved, that construction on the bridge would begin and end next year.
City staff proposed an extension and third ramp behind north City Market at a cost of $725,000. The total cost of the project, if approved as presented Tuesday to City Council, would cost about $4.1 million.
“My biggest concern is a safe crossing at 32nd (street),” said Mayor Melissa Youssef. “I’m thankful for the exit at north City Market. I would have felt like it was a design flaw without that. I’m in favor of moving forward with it (the bridge proposal) based on that.”
City Councilors Chris Bettin, who appeared by telephone, and Dean Brookie supported construction of the bridge – Brookie said the project is “critical to accomplish.”
“We just need to get it done,” he said. “It’s budgeted, let’s do it.”
But City Councilors Kim Baxter and Barbara Noseworthy questioned the rationale for constructing the bridge, suggesting the money could be used to benefit more people.
“Without looking at complete safety, I can’t say we’re doing the best for the most people in a fiscally responsible way,” Baxter said. “More information would be really beneficial to making a fiscally solid decision. I’m not saying I’m against the bridge, I’m saying we don’t have enough information to make the best choice.”