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Spreading the authority into a consensus

Richey Piiparinen  |  03/05/10 @ 7:00pm

Sometimes, negotiation means chipping away around the edges of another party's argument-or in the case of ODOT, of circumventing the last word of the bridge-building body by questioning the legitimacy of their reasons for no. Of course the number one reason for no to the addition of a multi-use path on the Innerbelt was that they didn't have time: no time to add an addendum, no time to amend documents, no time to alter the environmental impact statement. But as we have come to find out from this and thisletter, they do have time. We know this because our elected reps asked the feds whether it was true or not that if Clevelanders demanded infrastructure that coincided with federal goals of sustainable development, that we would be punished-stripped in fact of the $85 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Funds that would go to the financing of our bridge. And the answer they got was encouraging. As Sen. Brown's letter to Gov. Strickland states: "…it is my understanding that…it would be possible to undertake the proper environmental and logistical studies without losing ARRA funding".

That said, as we continue to chip we got to keep in mind that this is not an "us vs. them" process, as we risk, then, the situation devolving into something a lot smaller than what is at stake here. Because really: this isn't about beating the brows of ODOT as much as it is about being able to look at our skyline to see a thick sign of progress, and then no less important-of engaging in an often seemingly exclusionary process of how cities get formed. Now, what we have done, here, is address the top of this process-the federal bodies-so as to expose a bit more of the particulars we were a little unsure of. Continuing, then, maybe it is time to engage with the end of the process, or with the design-builders, and the recent release of some of the players applying for the design helps us to begin do this in some small way.

The first part of this engagement is simple: to do a little research, or to look at the products of the particular design-builders so as to ascertain whether or not they have the ability to design what we feel is important. And also: whether they share the same values in determining just what transportation is; this is, is it a paved escalated slab for cars, or is it expressive of a variety of modalities? Too, is transportation solely about paths or are they about places as well? Of course looking at past projects of the applicants is by no means exhaustive, yet it is a start to get a sense as to what these bridge-building teams are capable of. After all, our chance to get a multi-purpose path is only as good as the designs we get. Briefly, then, a look at the four designers part of design-build teams that submitted their qualifications to ODOT:

•Applicant 1: Parsons Transportation out of Pasadena, California. The firm recently completed the Biloxi Bay Bridge, a 1.6 mile long stretch that is part of US Highway 90. The $339 million-dollar bridge is dual-structured, each carrying three lanes of traffic. The east bound bridge also has a 12 ft shared path complete with three overlooks and an ornamental aluminum railing.

•Applicant 2: HNTB, of Kansas City. Here, the company completed a design-build project as part of US Highway 90 as well. The bridge spans 2.1 miles, and includes a 12-foot pedestrian and bicycle lane on its south side. Also, HNTB has designed some stunning pedestrian bridges, including The Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge and Landing that connects Omaha with Council Bluffs, Iowa over the Missouri River. The design includes: a pair of LED-equipped pylons; specific protections for migratory birds; and an adjacent landing area replete with native wildflowers and "artistic carbon fiber rods that emulate native grasses". Oh yeah, they have also spaced along the bridge exhibits that narrate the story of the Missouri River's endangered species.

•Applicant 3: Figg Engineering, of Tallahassee. Consulting internationally, the firm worked on the Cesar Gaviria Trujillo Viaduct, one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in South America complete with two pedestrian paths. But even more impressive has to be the firm's conceptual grasp of a bridge being a place. Specifically, Figg designed the world's tallest public bridge observatory in Maine atop the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. In a word: dang.

•Applicant 4: Janssen & Spaans, of Indianapolis. This firm won awards for their work on I-95/I-495's Woodrow Wilson Bridge which spans the Potomac. The bridge includes a pedestrian bike path separated by concrete barriers. It is 12 ft wide, 1.1 miles long, and includes "bump out" areas that allow view over D.C. and Old Town Alexandria.

In short, the capabilities are there to get some great designs that'll allow for the multimodal forms we seek to leave our visions, and enter into our realities. And so if the designers can do it, and the feds who are transmitting the ARRA funds will allow it, then what do we have left? The middle. But the more we chip the less visible the lines that divide are delineated, leaving-hopefully soon-a group of folks staring in the same direction: forward.

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