Friday, February 21, 2014

The bridges they burn can light their way

So, Erica Gilmore is sponsoring this bill that would authorize a sumptuous new walking bridge (what walking bridge does not offer walkers terraced seating to take a luxurious break from walking?) for the "southern corridor" of her district, and other council members--who said they could not spring simple sidewalks in their neighborhood--slowed her roll this week. Her option to avoid a fight over money: defer the Mayor's gift to south Downtown. Jerry Maynard promised to bring the council foot-draggers along to CM Gilmore's way of seeing things.

During her comments on deferral, CM Gilmore said she did not want to get into "a north-south" lest it be "divisive" and "unproductive". Looking at the million-dollar baby she intends for south Downtown (a.k.a. "The Gulch") versus the existing pedestrian bridge (the only pedestrian bridge?) in North Nashville, I can understand why a comparison wouldn't be productive for her legislation:

The Gulch's proposed $16,000,000 pedestrian bridge

North Nashville's existing pedestrian bridge (near Hadley Park)

That is quite a divide in stylishness. I can understand why some in North Nashville might resent the special favors lavished downtown. So, let's not focus strictly on comparisons, since it would be "divisive".

However, there is also a divide between rational and irrational choices of costs versus benefits.

According to the council's own documents, the requested $16,000,000 would be taken from the capital improvements fund that includes "a general $20 million designation for the maintenance, repair, rehabilitation, and replacement of bridges for fiscal year 2014." So, the conditions of existing bridges in CM Gilmore's district and in other districts are so good that we can spend most of this year's bridge funds on building an opulent new pedestrian bridge for 2,000 Gulch residents (most of whom CM Gilmore described as "carless Millennials")?

Terraced seating for the Millennial Generation!

You can sit on the stairs if you really want to.

In fairness, North Nashville's only pedestrian bridge is not in CM Gilmore's district and my guess is that it was not paid for by Metro (was it?). But the blight is symbolic of the privileges accorded to downtown development that are strictly rationed at points outside of downtown. The imbalance can be worse in districts whose council members have failed to copy the knack for ingratiating themselves to Mayor Karl Dean.

CM Emily Evans responded to CM Gilmore's bill by pointing out that she cannot even get sidewalks funded for school kids who have grown up waiting for them in her district, so she cannot vote for a $16,000,000 sidewalk for a bunch of Millennials who could and do use the Demonbreun viaduct when they want to go downtown. You go, Emily Evans:

Until I see the priorities of sidewalks in this city shifted to things like [installing them where kids need them to walk to schools], I'm never going to vote for something like this. So, you can defer it indefinitely. I appreciate the effort, but I think this is one of the most outrageous proposals I've seen.

For myself, I don't oppose the idea of building a pedestrian bridge in the Gulch. Goodness knows we would not want the Millennials walking an extra block to cross over at Demonbreun. But guzzling millions in bridge funds to air brush the Mayor's capital projects resume when a cheaper Gulch project would allow us to repair and renovate less sexy bridges across Davidson County? Or when it would allow us to move the money to needed sidewalk projects? Well, that's just foolish and wasteful.

By the way, CM Gilmore responded to my complaints about the double standards of capital spending with the reply "northern corridor got Sulphur Dell Ballpark." Never mind that the ballpark favor she handed out primarily serves team owner and real estate developer, Frank Ward. That's not really the point. The point is that Erica Gilmore may resist "a north-south" argument with fellow council members, but she seems to be willing to wade right into one with her constituents.


  1. (1) It's a bridge over an INTERSTATE. Who seriously wants to sit on terraced seating with cars and trucks whizzing beneath you?
    (2) The AMPers claim that Nashvillians will eagerly walk half a mile or more to AMP stops for the privilege of riding (what they to to great pains to avoid calling) a bus--and that this service is for millenials--apparently the same ones that can't walk a couple of blocks to the existing footbridge?

    1. "Who seriously wants to sit on terraced seating with cars and trucks whizzing beneath you?"

      The same people who would sit and watch graffiti-tagged freight cars chugging beneath them across a rail yard?

  2. Wait a minute - There is an informative post below about an I-40 park-over. One might say that a fancy bridge is a cousin to a park-over.

    No need to denounce the form or function of the bridge. All else being equal, I am sure it would be an awesome bridge. All else is not equal though, and the bridge can be denounced based on the other items noted (cost, competing projects, etc.).

    Same with denouncing the demographic that might use the bridge (Millenials). While they are nice to make fun of, I don't think they have the clout to push for this. If you are just having fun at hipsters's expenses, disregard. They deserve it.

    Similarly, the distate that some have for lesser-priced homes in the White Creek's discussion below gives me pause. As a city, Nashville needs affordable places to live. That doesn't mean Nashville needs a clustered suburb on quarter-acre lots that used to be country, but agitating for $300,000+ homes (typically looking at annual income of $80,000+ and $60,000 for a down payment) is something that some may consider elitist and unsupporting of the middle class.

    1. Sure. I'll trade a park-over on Jeff St for The Gulch footbridge. The interstate helped destroy neighborhoods during the period of late 20th Century "urban renewal." How long has a railyard been at the site of Union Station? Was there a neighborhood in The Gulch that train tracks destroyed before the recent invention of "The Gulch"? I'd say Jefferson Street has some long overdue good coming to it.

      That aside, let's not be too quick to reduce parks to the same status of bridges (as glorious as the terraced green spaces on Dean's bridge may be). My argument for a park-over is that public parks tend to make dramatic economic impacts in neighborhoods. Hence, a park-over could help counter the negative effects of the interstate, which we see expressed so clearly in the first anonymous comment on this post. You can hardly argue very convincingly the same thing about bridges (unless parks are attached to those bridges).

      Why? Because parks are not bridges in the sense of what's being proposed at The Gulch.

  3. CM Gilmore's main concern is climbing the ladder of success, not by doing her job but by rubbing elbows and doing the dirty work of others. Apparently her work as a professor is as bad as her work as a council member. She ignores her students just like she does her constituents.