For anyone imagining what a $4.1 million pedestrian bridge crossing the Animas River and 32nd Street might look like, the city has released a couple of artist renderings previewing the proposed structure.
Based on the renderings, the view looking south from 32nd Street would be obscured by the bridge crossing the river, which would sit higher than 32nd Street.
Durango Parks and Recreation plans to build the foot bridge to connect two parts of the Animas River Trail – one that ends south of 32nd Street on the east side of the river and the northern segment that starts north of 32nd Street on the west side of the river in Animas City Park. City officials also plan a ramp to access the bridge from behind north City Market.
The project has received renewed scrutiny from city councilors Kim Baxter and Barbara Noseworthy, both elected in April, who question whether money for the proposed bridge could be better spent to benefit more people.
Baxter asked city staff for a rendering of the bridge showing its height in relation to existing infrastructure. Sara Carver, who owns property near the proposed project, provided the images to The Durango Herald.
The height of the bridge concerned Carver, she said in an interview with the Herald. It’s both visually unappealing and could give pedestrians pause about using the elaborate bridge versus crossing via the 32nd Street Bridge, which already exists.
“There’s a possibility that the bridge won’t be used as intended,” she said.
But City Councilor Dean Brookie has said the bridge is “critical to accomplish,” citing years of planning and public engagement.
The City Council decided in 2011 to build a bridge over the Animas River to extend the trail network north, said Cathy Metz, director of the Parks and Recreation Department. A state regulatory commission ruled at the time that an at-grade crossing over the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad tracks is not safe, Metz said.
“We had to go over or under,” she said. “We decided to go over it.”
The Public Utilities Commission mandated the height of the bridge, she said.
Durango native Bob Griffith said the height of the bridge in renderings “just blew my mind.”
“What really bothers me, if we want to spend money on a bridge, why don’t we address Camino del Rio, if we think this is such a safety concern,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me that they’re putting this much money in the project. It seems to me we better be thinking of a bridge somewhere else.”
City staff is proceeding as if the bridge would be completed this year, Metz said. The only thing at this point that Metz said could derail the project is if proposals to build the pedestrian bridge are more expensive than what city staff estimated and the City Council has appropriated.
The Parks and Recreation Department plans to seek bids for construction of the pedestrian bridge in early February. Work on the project is planned to begin this spring and be completed by fall, Metz said.