The Amsterdam pedestrian bridge , construction on which will start this year, has been criticized as a " bridge to nowhere" and waste of money, including in a letter on today's page. It is neither.
The bridge will connect the city's North Side and South Side, as well as its past and future. The location, design and features are unusual enough to attract natives as well as tourists, which will bring a badly needed economic boost to the local economy.
People like to be on bridges , especially when not in cars, and when it is more than just a bridge -- when it is also a linear park.
The Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, built on an old railroad trestle, is a case in point. It has been attracting about half a million visitors a year since it opened in 2009, half of them tourists and a quarter from outside New York state. The High Line on Manhattan's West Side, also opened in 2009 and built on an abandoned freight train trestle, has become one of New York City's most popular tourist attractions. On a smaller scale, a pedestrian bridge in Shelburne Falls, Mass., called The Bridge of Flowers (for the lush, fragrant flowers that fill it), draws 30,000 or so visitors a year to that small town.
Amsterdam 's bridge will be attractive, with a curved design and ripples on the deck to mimic the movement of the water underneath; benches, plazas, greenery, art, plaques and other markers telling the story of the city's industrial past and prehistoric Native American past. There will be landings at both ends, with streetscape improvements to commercial Bridge Street on the South Side. Future stages call for a path connecting the bridge with the isolated Riverlink Park to the east, as well as an elevated walkway over the railroad tracks to downtown.
Whatever the project, someone will always find better ways to spend $16.5 million. But this bridge is not going to be a waste. Amsterdam will have something beautiful, tangible and usable for the money, something that will at least make a difference in the way residents and visitors think and feel about the city, and that could even revitalize it.