Elected officials in Tuscaloosa are in the earliest stages of the process to remove an aging pedestrian bridge over Veterans Memorial Parkway between Midtown and Cottondale.

The Projects Committee of the Tuscaloosa City Council met Tuesday and recommended that the full council enter into a professional services agreement with Duncan Coker Associates to make a plan to get the 60-year-old infrastructure torn down.

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Members of the committee said the bridge is structurally sound, but it won't be forever, and Mayor Walt Maddox said modernizing it for use over the next three or four decades would cost more than $2 million.

Another driving factor? "Nobody uses it," as Councilman Lee Busby succinctly summarized.

Council President Kip Tyner said the bridge had its uses in the 60s, but Maddox said the city estimates that pedestrians cross the bridge fewer than 30 times a month now.

(Google Street View)
(Google Street View)

The committee unanimously recommended the city work with Duncan Coker and get a plan in place for the demolition, which Graduate Engineer Zach O'Neal said should take three months and cost $500,000 in all.

"I will be thrilled to death to see it gone," Councilman John Faile said in the meeting. "It would not be safe to walk across it. Not that the bridge would fall on you, but getting off over there in the woods would not be a safe place to be."

There are likely some proverbial speed bumps ahead, as Veterans Memorial Parkway is a stretch of Alabama Highway 215, which brings the Alabama Department of Transportation to the table, and ALDOT is reportedly worried about an endangered bat species that might roost under the bridge.

The bridge also spans over Norfolk Southern Railway tracks north of the road, and the railroad has not exactly earned a reputation for fast and easy collaborations with the city.

Still, the committee voted to move the matter to the full council and if they approve the $217,000 agreement with Duncan Coker next week, the planning to demolish the bridge will begin in earnest.

One silver lining for nearby residents - Joe Duncan of Duncan Coker spoke with the council Tuesday and said if possible, at least one lane of the highly trafficked highway will stay open throughout the process.

For updates on the discussion as it continues, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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