City: New pedestrian bridge for Music Hall could cost up to $8 million

CINCINNATI -- A new cost estimate conducted by the city projects that replacing the pedestrian bridge connecting Music Hall and the WCET building and Town Center Garage on Central Parkway would cost anywhere from $6-8 million.

"This is substantially higher than originally believed," City Manager Harry Black said in a memo issued Monday.

So much higher, in fact, that it would cost more per foot than the highly contested $148 million streetcar construction project. The former bridge at Music Hall measured roughly one-tenth of a mile. All told, a tenth-mile of the city's streetcar system cost $4.1 million -- a figure that also includes its five vehicles and building their maintenance facility.

COLUMN: Rebuilding Music Hall bridge misses the point of pedestrian safety

The funding problem stems from the Music Hall Revitalization Committee informing Black that it could no longer commit money toward building a new pedestrian bridge. The former bridge was deemed at risk for "imminent failure" and unsafe to use.

The city closed the bridge to pedestrian traffic in 2016 and razed the bridge earlier this year.

The Music Hall Revitalization Committee initially proposed rebuilding the bridge when committee members believed they could provide a hefty portion of the money required. But initial cost estimates suggested the city would need to provide a fraction of the new estimate, around $1 million.

Even the $1 million estimate came with some contention. City Council member Chris Seelbach came out with vocal opposition.

"I just don't think it's an appropriate use of a million or more dollars when we have a grand entrance to Music Hall on the side of Washington Park," Seelbach said during an August meeting. He pointed out the new garage below the park and the promised shuttle service from the Town Center Garage.

In the memo, Black requested further policy direction on whether or not the city administration should pursue a rebuild. If directed to do so, paying for the new bridge would "involve cutting funding from other capital projects in the pipeline or underway," Black said.

When Vice Mayor David Mann initially submitted his motion to study a new bridge's cost, it included redeveloping the entire block that contains the WCET building and garage. Mann also offered this suggestion when council was debating the issue. 

Black's memo mentions this possibility, as well.

"If (building a new bridge) is not the preferred option, the administration will...actively pursue conversations with 3CDC and other partners about a larger redevelopment of this corridor," Black said, "including additional accommodations for pedestrians."

Pat LaFleur reports on transportation and mobility for WCPO. Connect with him on Twitter (@pat_laFleur) and on Facebook.

WCPO's Joe Rosemeyer contributed to this story.

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