University District Pedestrian Bicycle Bridge

Cost is presently estimated at $14 to $16 million (the $16 m is in a document I received in email) for the University District Pedestrian Bicycle Bridge.  Three years ago, promoters sold this project saying the “bridge may cost up to $8 million” – but carefully leaving out the other associated expenses.

In three years, the price tag has doubled. 

Similar pedestrian bridges elsewhere cost in the $1/2 million to $4 million range.

To give that price context here are the costs of other bridges:

  • Replacement of the older half of the 339 foot Argonne Road Bridge over the Spokane River – $6 million (in 2004).
  • Rebuilding the Barker Road Bridge –$11.8 million
  • Replacing the west half of the Sullivan Road double wide automobile bridge spanning the Spokane River – $19.7 million.
  • Cost of temporary Interstate 5 Skagit River bridge replacement – $15.6 million.

Does $16 million seem appropriate for a pedestrian/bike bridge that will have diminished use in the coldest months of the year?

Update: As someone who likes to ride a bike, I support the concept. But a bike bridge costing $16 million, more than most automobile bridges in the area, is not supportable.

Update: Proponents defend the bridge expense by arguing its not just a bridge – its a $16 million municipal art project creating an icon that will make Spokane nationally and even globally famous. Students will choose to attend WSU-Spokane because of the bridge, they argue. It’s not just a bike bridge, its not just an art project, its a marketing program! Gag. See the comments to this for additional information.

Update July 9: There is a popular meme that the University District has a fast growing student population. However, the data that is available shows the combined student enrollment at GU and WSU-Spokane is flat to slightly downwards over the prior five years. This claim of a fast growing group of students is not true.

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3 Responses to University District Pedestrian Bicycle Bridge

  1. Brandon Rapez-Betty says:

    I have a more accurate list of ‘similar pedestrian bridges’ and their associated costs if you would like to post them as actual comparisons. I found the cost of the UD Bike/Ped Bridge to be comparable to other pedestrian bridges. The Chihuly Bridge of Glass ($17M), Amgen Helix Pedestrian Bridge ($10M construction cost), the Vancouver Land Bridge ($12,25M), the Millennium Bridge in Denver ($9M construction cost), the Liberty Bridge in South Carolina ($13M), or the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge in Omaha ($22M). I would suggest updating your data to reflect more accurate comparisons. The $1/2M to $4M figure you list is misleading. Further, you are wrong about diminished use in the winter months. The design features electric conduit that runs through the deck to heat and melt snowfall. That water will then captured and provide irrigation to the landscaped landings. Further, your criticism of the ‘appropriateness’ of the bridge does not take into context any of the land use and tax increment finance analysis to demonstrate the need for connectivity in the area. Finally, the funding for this project is likely to come from state and federal grants that are specifically intended for BIKE & PEDESTRIAN infrastructure. If we do not seek out those dollars for this project, another community will.

    In reading about why you choose to be anonymous for this website, you talk about the importance of the ‘data.’ But your editorialization of the data is counterproductive to your cause.

  2. inlandnw says:

    I’d like to elevate your bridge listing to the main post as an alternative viewpoint. I sent an email to the email address provided to ask your permission, but your email server address was not reachable and the email bounced back to me.

    Bridge Comparisons:

    • Spokane Ped/Bike bridge, 370 feet, $16m
    • Amgen Helix Pedestrian Bridge, 420 feet, $10
    • http://www.birdair.com/projectgallery/amgen_helix_pedestrian_bridge.aspx “One of Seattle’s newest architectural attractions is not a new sports stadium or an art museum, but a unique pedestrian bridge” – that it comes with this disclaimer echoes my comment that Spokane’s bridge has become an art project (that’s ok – but back when it was an $8m project, it was not marketed as a municipal art project.)

    • Chihuly Bridge of Glass, 500 feet, $17m This bridge is, in fact, part of the museum complex and features glass show cases and hanging glass fixtures and is intended as an outdoor art display.
    • Bob Kerrey Pedestrian bridge is 3,000 feet long with a 52 foot clearance, $22m.
    • Millennium Bridge is 200 feet long, $9m, 25 ft. clearance.
    • Liberty Bridge, 380 ft, $13m.

    Of those listed above, the last two seem the closest comparable bridges which tells us that similar suspension bridge structures cost a similar amount. Its sort of like asking if a Boeing 747 and an Airbus A340 cost the same (sort of) – but the question is not about comparable costs, it’s could we make do with a De Haviland Dash Q400 instead?

    In other words, is this really the right design for Spokane given the available funds in Spokane?

    Outlying Spokane libraries only recently extended their hours from something like 22 hours open per week to a 5 day schedule. County parks are officially closed from about mid-October to end of April or end of May (depending on the park), and I believe last time I looked at a city budget, year over year city parks spending had gone down slightly. Within that context, should we buy the Honda or the Mercedes? That’s the question that many of us are asking.

    When the bridge project was marketed in 2010 onward, the public was told it was an $8m project.

    As the price tag has risen to $16m (so far), would this lead to input from more stakeholders? Apparently, judging from the online comments, I am not alone in my concern.

    The price tag did not seem to surface until after the design was selected. Sort of like having a restaurant that only tells us the meal price after we order (just like health care!)

    Would the public consider other design alternatives given price signalling?

    A choice to spend $16m on this particular design is a choice to not spend $16m on something else. What are we foregoing (e.g. could be anything, parks, libraries, transit infrastructure, new fire station, pot holes)?

    Or, it might be $8m on the bridge and $8m on project Y.

    But these last two questions were not asked either.”

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