The Veteran's Memorial Parkway pedestrian bridge is safe, for now. A large crowd of East Tuscaloosa residents showed up at last night's Tuscaloosa City Council meeting to voice their opposition to the City of Tuscaloosa's plans to demolish the structure that has stood for four decades, The Tuscaloosa City Council responded by sending the proposal back to the council's public projects committee for re-evaluation.

36th Avenue East resident Loretta Lynn spoke to the council about what the bridge means to the neighborhoods that surround it. She told the council it is one of the few safe means to connect neighborhoods over the busy 4-lane parkway. "We have parents pushing strollers, bike riders, dog walkers, veterans from the Arcadia side that access medical care who do not have vehicles and rely on the bridge to walk across and get their care from the VA hospital," she advised the council. "Demolition would leave about a mile, maybe a little bit more, maybe a little bit less, of Veterans (Parkway) without a crosswalk."

Lynn and others emphasized how dangerous it is to cross the busy parkway at ground level. She pointed out it is a big concern for many of the people who live in that area and do not have access to vehicles and must walk.

The bridge needs maintenance but is structurally sound. The group opposed to its destruction gave praise to members of the council, including those who do not represent the two districts involved, for actually going out an examining it first-hand.

Marvin Lucas who lives in Beechwood Hills told the council the bridge was put in place when the road was widened to four-lane for the safety of the community. "We talk about Tuscaloosa being a walkable community," Lucas reminded the council. "We need this bridge."

Tuscaloosa District 6 Councilman John Faile has referred to the bridge as an eyesore. Lucas agreed but pointed out cleaning and repairing it would solve that problem. He suggested the neighborhood can help by planting gardens on either side.

All of the concerned citizens emphasized that taking down the bridge will make it more dangerous for children, elderly and anyone else to cross the parkway.

Mayor Walt Maddox's own comment that the bridge is structurally in good shape was mentioned during the opposition comment period. The council was told nobody uses the bridge, which the opposition refutes. The question then was asked, why spend three-quarters of a million dollars to take down a perfectly good bridge?

Aesthetics was given as reason for the planned demolition of the bridge in an email sent out by the mayor. Residents call that the result of the city's neglect.

Council President Kip Tyner, who represents one of the districts connected by the bridge admitted he had erred and not done his homework in recommending the demolition. He then "wholeheartedly" recommended taking the demolition order off the table and sending it back to committee. He now has become convinced it should not be demolished.

The public projects committee is expected to reexamine the issue and meet with residents before reporting back a recommendation.

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