A bridge too far?
Despite a parade of opposition testimony at its May 2 meeting, the Sonoma City Council refused to reconsider its decision to position a bicycle and pedestrian bridge across Fryer Creek at Newcomb Street.
The agenda item was ostensibly a simple "yes" or "no" vote to approve the Environmental Impact Report for the project by issuing a negative declaration, meaning there was no negative impact.
But a gathering of neighborhood residents opposed to the bridge stepped to the podium during public comments and reiterated complaints about the project heard earlier at a lengthy public hearing in November 2009.
Opponents argued that the bridge would expose pedestrians and bicyclists to danger from residents backing cars out of driveways that empty onto Newcomb Street, which ends in a cul de sac at the edge of Fryer Creek.
They also insisted that the $300,000 cost was too high and not warranted by the modest number of cyclists and pedestrians it would serve. One neighborhood resident said she had conducted her own on-the-ground survey and estimated that only about 10 children would use the bridge to get to any of the three schools grouped along and just off Broadway opposite Newcomb Street.
But other speakers testified there would be large numbers of bike riders using the bridge and that an alternative crossing site near Pickett Street was a less convenient, less direct and, in some cases, less safe option. One speaker pointed out that residents all over Sonoma have to back their cars out of driveways into streets where bicyclists ride and Newcomb Street would be no different.
While Councilmember Tom Rouse, who has elected after the previous council vote, expressed opposition to the project based purely on its cost during a period of revenue shortage, the other four members showed no interest in reconsidering their earlier decision.
Mayor Laurie Gallian said she has been following the project since 2007, and "I feel the public has spoken, the public supports this project ... This is a benefit to the entire town, not just a (neighborhood) ..."
Money for the project comes from redevelopment funds and a state grant. With a 4-1 vote, the council approved the EIR, a move that will now allow the city to move forward with engineering work. The project could be completed sometime in 2012.