Our View: Save the lions on Seventh Street

October 18, 2013 

DN 7th St Bridge

Lions greet motorists at both ends of the bridge. The Seventh Street Bridge, which opened in 1916, is in need of replacing or rebuilding.

DEBBIE NODA — dnoda@modbee.com Buy Photo

There aren’t many lions in Modesto, so we think that the few that are there – specifically those on the Seventh Street bridge – should be saved.

Stanislaus County and the city of Modesto propose to either upgrade or replace the bridge, which is four years from its 100th birthday. There’s little doubt that the bridge is structurally inadequate. In fact, it has been inadequate for decades. Big trucks have been prohibited for at least 70 years.

Pictures tell the story: crumbling concrete with rusted steel trusses evident in some areas. Narrow lanes and narrow sidewalks, with crevices and bumps that make it impossible for a motorized wheelchair to navigate the sidewalk. An engineering team on the bridge one day videotaped a woman in a wheelchair riding in the lane of traffic, a risky proposition at best.

Only about two dozen people attended the initial public meeting held Monday about the bridge and its replacements. The public’s input will be sought at numerous steps along the way, as an environmental review is done, a report drafted and eventually, probably in 2015, a decision made as to what type of bridge.

Simply upgrading the present bridge does not resolve the problem that it is too narrow for pedestrians and motor vehicles to share the space. One possibility is to restore the present bridge and build another two-lane bridge next to it, with each carrying traffic in one direction. A third option would be to replace the bridge with one much wider structure. We wouldn’t presume to say what’s better from the engineering perspective. But we will say this: Modesto has a spotty record in preserving its landmarks. The 1916 bridge is a designated landmark, put on the city list in 1992, and the lions at each end are the most distinguishing feature. We think they should be saved somehow.

To learn more, visit the website on the project, www.7thstreetbridge.org or write the project manager, David Leamon, at the county Department of Public Works, 1716 Morgan Road, Modesto 95358. Oct. 30 is the deadline for public comments on what issues should be considered in the environmental studies.

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