At long last, and sparing absolutely no expense, Modesto's colossal bike bridge over Briggsmore will finally be open to the public on Saturday. We have watched, and watched, and watched this structure slowly struggle toward completion and now it is finally finished. Whew! I think they built the Golden Gate Bridge more quickly than this one.
Only $5 million and more than a year in the making, the bridge will be ready for our inspection and for our safe transit across Briggsmore and the Modesto Irrigation District canal.
By now more than $10 million has been spent on the Virginia Corridor trail, including the design, engineering, trail improvements to date, and of course as of Saturday, the bridge.
Am I the only one that finds it ironic that simultaneous with this dedication we are seeing the pending removal of the Burchell Fountain, just a few hundred yards east of the bridge? As we bask in the pride of having this imposing structure, can we temper that pride with the loss of a lovely, long-term community feature like the fountain?
Am I the only one that is frustrated at the condition of the pavement on Briggsmore and other city streets in the vicinity of this structure? There are roads in our community that are simply shameful; couldn't some of the money expended on the bridge have been better spent on improving overall traffic conditions in the city?
My inquiries to city officials brought this response: It was a federal grant that allowed no flexibility to spend funds elsewhere. Take it or give it back.
And are you aware that the entire project, as planned in 2001, will cost more than $20 million? Plus we all know what inflation and forward budgeting turns into. A final cost well in excess of that which was originally planned.
Ah, but back to the bridge. It must be quite a structure, because those of us that have watched this long-term construction have noted numerous contractor vehicles driving across at various times. Not small vehicles, but larger trucks and substantial construction equipment. I daresay that this structure, which was planned for bicycles and pedestrians, has been built to freeway standards. Again, at no small cost to the taxpayers.
But enough of the negatives. We can only hope that this trail and bridge will encourage great numbers of folks to get outdoors and enjoy a safe walk across the central city. When it is finished the trail will encompass a full 4.2 miles, and should provide sufficient space for the serious walkers and the casual strollers to share the joys of the trail. The plan is to eventually span from downtown all the way to the Pelandale Expressway, an ambitious length to be sure.
Suddenly, Modesto has become "trail city" with the progress on the very ambitious Tuolumne River Trail and the proposed Helen White Memorial Trail on the west side. (More on this one in a future column.)
I take my hat off to those who have planned these community features. It is just a shame that budgeting and costs were not more carefully controlled.
Look for me up front near the ribbon on opening day. I would not miss it. After all, the cost of this structure came out of our pockets, so it is only right that we be there to celebrate its dedication and our ability to use it.
Hagerty is an Oakdale real estate developer active in community nonprofits. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two celebrations are planned Saturday at the Virginia Corridor:
At 10:30 a.m., the city's Public Art Committee will have a ribbon cutting and dedication of the handcar sculpture at Centennial Junction, near the Roseburg Avenue intersection.
At 11 a.m., there will be a grand opening celebration for the new extension, which starts at Granger Avenue.