After a few brief snags, the pedestrian bridge project connecting the city’s north and south sides is moving forward, according to Mayor Ann Thane.
Thane said the final contracts between the state Canal Corp. and New York City-based engineering and consulting firm Ammann and Whitney were signed and delivered last Thursday.
“[Ammann and Whitney representatives] are coming up for a site visit in September to meet with me and explain how this is all going to proceed,” Thane said Wednesday. “This is the first good news we’ve heard about this project in a long time.
However, state Canal Corp. spokesperson Erin Agans said the agency is still working out an agreement with the state Department of Transportation over the transfer of funds for the project. Agans said work will not be able to proceed until the agreement is in place. She did not know how long that would take, but negotiations have been ongoing since at least the beginning of the year.
The proposed $16.5 million pedestrian bridge project was the brainchild of former assemblyman Paul Tonko, who secured the money from the state’s 2005 Transportation Bond Act passed that November.
Tonko said then that the bridge would be a vital link — from the city’s South Side, including redevelopment plans dubbed the Via Ponte project and a revitalized historic downtown center. The bridge would also provide a link from the South Side to Riverlink Park and farther to Guy Park Manor and the Amtrak station.
City Republicans, including then-mayor Joseph Emanuele III, tried to reposition the money allocated for the bridge to some of the city’s other needs, stirring a debate among politicians and other city residents.
Thane has urged residents to embrace the pedestrian bridge as a way to spur economic development.
Long Island developer Uri Kaufman, who is attempting to redevelop the old Chalmers Knitting Mill, long set for demolition, into luxury condominiums, has championed the proposed pedestrian bridge as well.
City officials have begun to seek grants for various aspects of the proposed Via Ponte project. The Common Council authorized National Grid to conduct a study into the feasibility of burying the power lines along Bridge Street during the road’s reconstruction project. Also, the city has applied for money thought the state’s Transportation Enhancement program to redevelop Bridge Street from Gilliland Avenue to the river.
Thane said the city’s 2003 Comprehensive Plan calls for cobbled streets, gazebos, landscaping and historic lighting in that area.
“We want to see that become a reality,” she said.