When Amsterdam’s new pedestrian bridge is spanning the Mohawk River, city officials want it to tell a story.
The $16.5 million walkway to connect the city’s South Side with its downtown may draw people by the hundreds just to view the spectacle, and residents are being asked to help shape what those guests will see.
The city is holding a visioning session Monday evening to gather ideas on how to showcase local history on the deck of the bridge.
“We were the door to the western expansion, and our history reflects Native American history, early settlements, then the Revolutionary War,” Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane said.
Industrialization, post-industrialization and waves of immigration from different regions are all pieces of the city’s past and present, all elements she said could weave an interesting tale.
“It could really be fascinating.”
The bridge’s deck could feature 12 or 15 medallions — but what they’ll say or show is still a question for residents, Thane said.
“Do they want to see a chronological depiction of events in Amsterdam, do they want to see the many ethnic cultures that have come through the city?” she said.
A particular sculpture may be appropriate, or a quote that can be etched in the cement, she added.
The bridge has been a project on the mind of U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, a city native who helped push the proposal when he served as a state assemblyman. Tonko said in a statement the bridge’s story is important.
“I believe our challenge here is clear. We, together as a community, need to determine the expression of heritage and history that will be woven into our Amsterdam Pedestrian Bridge,” he said. “This is a golden opportunity to show future generations that we respected and revered the people and natural surroundings that built us. Our ‘power of place,’ replete with rich history, forever defines, nurtures and sustains us.”
Voters approved dedicating $16.5 million in funding for the bridge in a transportation bond act, but it’s unclear precisely how much it will cost, according to R.W. Groneman, a spokesman for the state’s Thruway Authority and its subsidiary Canal Corp.
He said permit applications will be submitted next month to the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The project is expected to be put out for bids in the fall of 2013, Groneman said. Construction is expected to take about two years, he said.
The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Monday in the Amsterdam High School cafeteria.