After more than four decades of discussion, bicyclists and other pedestrians can now cross Paradise Creek on East Third Street in Moscow.
Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert cut a red ribbon and led children on bicycles across the recently completed pedestrian bridge during a grand opening event Saturday afternoon as about 50 people — most of them on bikes — looked on.
Lambert told the Daily News the Third Street bridge discussion has gone on since he moved to the city in 1977. Talks of the contentious structure likely surfaced even prior to that.
Most recently, in 2017, the city proposed a multimodal bridge to connect Third Street to Mountain View Road, and while many residents are in support of such a bridge to provide quicker access to parts of the city, others fear the bridge will result in increased traffic and safety impacts for students attending nearby schools. Opposers also say the traffic from the bridge will force property values to plummet in one of the city’s most historic neighborhoods.
“Here it is, 42 years later we finally got a bridge,” Lambert said. “It might not be the bridge that everybody wants and it might not be the answer for all, but … at least pedestrians and bikers can get across it.”
While the pedestrian-bicycle bridge is expected to be temporary as the city moves forward with the construction of a multimodal bridge open to vehicles, Moscow acting Public Works Director Tyler Palmer told the Daily News there is no funding for a vehicular/pedestrian bridge proposed in Lambert’s fiscal 2019-20 budget, which starts Oct. 1, and the city has no plans to fund the bridge at this time.
“Public works won’t be initiating that push without (city) council direction,” Palmer said.
The city council earmarked $580,000 for construction of a vehicular/pedestrian bridge in the fiscal 2017-18 budget, but the lowest bid the city received last year came in at $920,957. The council deemed the bids too high and unanimously rejected them.
The council later concluded a temporary, portable pedestrian bridge was the best option. The bridge cost about $60,000 to purchase and install, City Councilor Art Bettge said.
Lambert said if funding — which he estimated would likely come in the form of grants — is identified for a vehicular/pedestrian bridge, the recently opened pedestrian bridge could be moved to another part of town. Lambert said he has always favored a vehicular/pedestrian bridge so it can be accessed by every mode of transportation.
Before the large mass of bicyclists and others showed up at the bridge’s dedication Saturday, they commuted to the grand opening of the State Highway 8/Styner Avenue underpass, which was completed late last year.
After remarks from city officials and community members, and a ribbon cutting by Lambert, the bicyclists proceeded on the underpass to the bridge grand opening.
“I would have been thrilled with a third of this many people,” Palmer said. “It’s really great to see this kind of community support for something like this.”
“It shows you how important biking in this community is,” Lambert added.
Frank Bongiorno, who lives next to the bridge and has publicly opposed a vehicular bridge, said he “can’t be happier” for the installation.
Bongiorno said it will be frequently used by bicyclists, including children, who he has seen several times try to jump the creek.
“These two infrastructure items are really important because multimodal transportation is all about having comfortable, safe connections,” Palmer said of the underpass and bridge.
He said the installations are imperative, especially for young riders and those who are more mobility-challenged.
“This type of infrastructure can really just open new worlds for them,” Palmer said.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.