Students of AHS may remember Mayor Anne M. Thane and staff stopping by all three lunches with a ballot box and three pictures of different pedestrian bridges. The three designs were varied, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, but all inherently beautiful. Each one, as some students may have been surprised to find, could be the next to span the Mohawk River.
Students were asked to vote on which bridge they liked best, either bridge A, B or C. Although the student vote was obviously not the final say, it did have input as to which was ultimately chosen. That lucky design was bridge B, a curved, original design with lampposts and benches, a veritable park over the river.
The bridge started in 2005 with the passing of the Transportation Bill in Congress. Assemblyman Paul Tonko (D-Amsterdam) pushed for an earmark on the bill in a section for “canal improvements.” The funding acquired was $50 million, $17 million of which would go to Amsterdam for a pedestrian bridge to connect the north and south sides of the city of Amsterdam over the Mohawk River. After intense negotiation and collaboration between the Senate, the House and the governor’s office, not to mention a heated public referendum, the funding for the bridge was officially allocated.
Some, however, have greeted the bridge project with hostility. Many say the bridge is a waste of money, which is a common misconception. The money allocated for the bridge either comes with the bridge or does not exist at all. However, critics still feel that the bridge would do little good for the community, calling it a “bridge to nowhere,” citing a lack of economic development on the riverfront sides of the bridge. Some point out that there is already a working pedestrian bridge a few hundred feet from where the new one is to be built. For these reasons, many still feel it would make sense to reject the funding.
Thane feels otherwise, saying, “I think that it will bring great economic development and recreational opportunities to the community.” In short, the bridge may actually stimulate economic growth. The project holds special significance to Thane, as she has been a continual proponent of riverfront development in the city. She feel that shops, restaurants, and businesses may spring up on both sides of the bridge as a result of its construction.
Only time will tell if the bridge is a success or a failure and if critics are proven to be correct.
Anthony Clark is a senior at Amsterdam High School