The announcement of a spring construction start date for the Interstate 80 pedestrian bridge in Ottawa was music to Monica Robles’ ears.
She makes an hour-and-a-half-long walk to work every day to the north side of Ottawa and at times it can be a tricky trek, as the current bridge doesn't have sidewalks.
“It gets really sketchy trying to cross over just to get to the median because depending on the day and depending on the traffic it gets pretty crazy,” Robles said.
A good portion of her walk through Ottawa is easily traversable until north of West Etna Road, where the sidewalk ends.
Robles was wearing a bright white winter jacket Wednesday morning as she walked through the grass next to the southbound traffic on Columbus Street before the Interstate 80 exit. Then she has to cross to the island by the Interstate 80 exit, then onto the overpass before finding a similar trip further north until the sidewalk continues on West Stevenson Road.
Robles is epileptic and doesn’t have a driver's license.
She’s not particularly scared to make the walk, but there are times when it does become nerve-wracking.
“Moreso at night because when you’re wearing darker colors, I assume it’s harder for cars to see you," Robles said. "It definitely gets kind of sketchy."
The Ottawa City Council approved putting $500,000 toward the $2.5 million project during Tuesday night’s meeting with the rest of the project being funded by a grant.
City Engineer Tom Duttlinger said the project is expected to begin in spring and could be completed in fall 2020.
Economic Development Director Dave Noble said Wednesday the bridge will be a basic, non-decorative, steel bridge with a chained link fence added to the sides to protect traffic below. The type of steel will not require painting and while maintenance policies have not been established for the bridge it will be the city's responsibility to plow it if needed.
The bridge will have its own foundation on both ends and pillars in the middle. It will be about 15 feet away from the existing overpass and will have sloping concrete under each end.
Travelers aren’t the only ones interested in the project; local businesses may benefit from it as well.
Managing Partner Ross Avery of Furlong’s Sports Grill and Off Track Betting (OTB), 110 W. Etna Road, said he sees people making the hike on the overpass on a daily basis, some with dogs.
He said he’s never seen anyone in particular danger of getting hit but he said it should definitely serve those looking to travel to the North Side as well as those visiting businesses near the overpass, such as his own.
One regular customer of the restaurant uses a wheelchair and often is seen traveling through parking lots to get further to the North Side.
He said if the walking path portion of the project encourages more bicycle traffic to his business, he said it may be worth having a bike rack installed to serve the new customers.
Super 8 General Manager Karen Zemann said she expects it will be a welcome addition for her guests as well.
Oftentimes, guests staying at the hotel look to visit nearby restaurants and travel can be difficult without a pedestrian bridge.
"So we always tell them that if they're walking in the day to take cabs or Ubers if available on the way back (after dark)," Zemann said.
She said she's often concerned for her guests as many prefer to walk to nearby restaurants rather than drive after checking into the hotel.
"I just really think (the bridge) is a good idea," she said.
The project has been on the City Council’s plans for a few years.
Robles said she’s thrilled the plan is coming to fruition.
“I think it’s worth it. It’s definitely worth it,” she said.
“I think it’s a great idea, so I’m excited,” she added. “It makes my walk easier.”
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