“Why doesn’t the city of Grand Junction spend the $3 million they say they can afford for the “bridge to nowhere” on the Orchard Mesa Pool instead? Problem solved.”
Sunday’s “You Said It” included the preceding statement, among several that indicate readers are confused about specific public works projects in the news lately, if not the role of local government entities in providing taxpayer-funded services.
Before we delve into a local fact-checking exercise, it may be helpful to revisit why “You Said It” exists. It’s a way for readers to get something off their chests — air a grievance or express gratitude — in a quick and painless way. Collectively, these comments reflect the mood of the community. It’s sort of like eavesdropping on conversations at the barber shop or hair salon; but from the comfort of your breakfast nook.
While none of us are likely to take the ramblings of a stranger as the gospel truth, their comments can be instructive. They tell us how people see the world — usually in simple, black and white terms. Maybe “You Said It” should include a disclaimer that people don’t necessarily know what they’re talking about. We figure that becomes clear enough when somebody blames city government for wasting money instead of spending it on schools.
Nevertheless, Sunday’s “You Said It” included so many misguided notions about what’s going on with the aforementioned pedestrian bridge that we thought it would be useful to separate fact from fiction.
The city doesn’t have $3 or $4 million just sitting around waiting to be spent on something. The city identified a pedestrian bridge as an important connector it hopes to build if it can get grants to cover most (if not all) of the costs. Its application with the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Multi-Modal Options Fund grant was rejected earlier this month.
The city applied for two grants in the fall of 2019 to fund the project. It will find out whether it was selected for the second grant through CDOT’s Transportation Alternative Program in March or April. The project, which was originally proposed at $3.5 million, has been revised up to $4.5 million.
City staff is continuing to review the project, including the alignment of the bridge. The city budgeted enough to proceed with design work on the bridge. As originally proposed, it would stretch from the south end of the Old Train Depot property over the Union Pacific train yard and Riverside Parkway ending near the Dos Rios mixed-use development on the other side. The bridge was proposed to be 12 feet wide and 900 feet long and would have a large ADA-compliant elevator at each end.
But the idea of another pedestrian bridge rubs some people the wrong way. Here’s another example from Sunday’s “You Said It”:
“Bridge or pool? There are two bridges that cross the railroad tracks and the river less than half a mile apart. The railroad station is located between them. Anyone who was healthy enough to make the trip across a new bridge to the Dos Rios development could walk to one of those bridges. Instead, put that money into building or maintaining a swimming pool. Every child should learn to swim and that is not in the rivers and canals. Put the money where it can do the most good for the local residents. Please use a little common sense.”
Again, if the bridge doesn’t get funded, it won’t get built. If it doesn’t get built, that doesn’t mean there are millions lying in wait for a worthier project. Attacking the sensibility of building a bridge is not a path for funding the Orchard Mesa pool.
Incidentally, it takes 15 to 20 minutes to walk one mile at a moderate pace. Using existing pedestrian bridges to get to Dos Rios is not the level of connectivity downtown needs to become what city planners envision, since it could easily add 10-20 minutes to your trip if walking from downtown. But that’s an editorial for another day.
The point here is that most projects and their funding mechanisms are more complex than what most “You Said It” contributors can properly address. Don’t read “You Said It” expecting simple answers to complicated problems. Read it because it’s sometimes snarky and entertaining. Read it with the understanding that people ascribe their own values to government decisions and actions, and that sometimes the government doesn’t do a good job of explaining projects to the public.
We’ve encouraged our readers to be less sarcastic and less critical of politicians and neighbors. We thought that as the valley’s outlook grew rosier, “You Said It” might circulate more positive energy. That hasn’t happened yet, but “You Said It” will always have value as a mirror reflecting the pulse of the community.
Where else are we going to get feedback on why bond measures fail? Comments may sometimes be misguided, but they often reveal the truth in a person’s heart.