Despite the delays and cost overruns, Pendleton’s newest bridge is open for business and undergoing its finishing touches. It’s a marvelous structure, complete with antique streetlights and a pedestrian underpass. It’s pretty obvious that no expense was spared as pedestrian safety was a primary concern.
What a difference a couple of years makes. Southwest 13th Street, one of few access streets to Pendleton’s South Hill, was in deplorable condition, full of potholes and crumbling. More patching was not the answer. City officials felt a complete rebuild was the only solution. The addition of ADA-compliant sidewalks was considered too expensive, especially since there was a stairway nearby. Though that particular stairway was in pretty bad shape from years of neglect, I believe they felt once the street was completed, upgrading the stairway would be considered.
Unfortunately, repairing the stairway was not an option, and it was condemned. It was decided a new walkway with lights and a handrail for safety was the ultimate solution, and the condemned stairway would be removed because it presented a safety hazard to children in the area since it was in such close proximity of the Early Learning Center. Fast forward to today and check the progress. A steep temporary gravel path remains, partially overgrown with weeds at times, unlit, and without a handrail. The old condemned concrete stairway? Yup, it’s still there too.
Considering the condition of our city streets, the total absence of sidewalks in much of the city, and the unsatisfactory solution afforded pedestrian access to and from the South Hill, wouldn’t a well-lit crosswalk at Southeast Eighth Street have been acceptable and much more cost-effective? You bicycle riders can rest easy. The new bridge and the block approaching the bridge have dedicated bike lanes. Pedestrians? Sorry, no crosswalks.
The real kicker in this whole project wasn’t the delays and cost overruns that were paid from our street repair funds. It was the number of substandard streets city officials agreed to transfer from county ownership to the city just to get the county to pay for their share of the bridge replacement costs. What did we get? We’ve got a bridge that nobody really wanted, and by the Public Works director’s own admission, the added bonus of millions of dollars of additional street repairs to the city’s backlog. Repair costs for Southwest Hailey alone are estimated in the millions. It seems the city would have been much better off simply paying the county’s portion. With the high costs expected for Southwest Hailey alone, it’ll be years, if ever, before any substantial repairs are made.