We’ve waited a long time for the new pedestrian bridge over the Arkansas River, and we’re going to get to wait some more.
Jeff Stava, director and trustee for Gathering Place, told Tulsa World reporter Kevin Canfield last week that the bridge project is still in its design phase. Construction won’t likely begin until next year, and the whole thing won’t be wrapped up until mid-2021.
Gathering Place took over the bridge project in 2018.
The bridge schedule allows the project to be in the Arkansas River bed at the same time as the city’s replacement of the Zink Lake low-water dam, which is slated to begin in the summer of 2020 and take two years. That’s an important element of coordination. It saves money and means less disruption of normal flow of the Arkansas River.
If that schedule holds true, the old river crossing will have been closed to runners, walkers and bicyclists for about six years before its replacement is in place.
The new bridge will be considerably better than what we had before, possibly a lot better. Most notably, the bridge deck will be twice as wide as the old 8-foot railroad trestle. The new bridge will have a solid deck — concrete or possibly sandstone or something else — depending on how much private support can be raised to go with the basic $24.5 million structure funded by the city. If enough private money can be raised, the bridge could also feature enhanced wood decking, shading, benches and better lighting.
The grumblers will say that the project is taking too long and there wasn’t anything wrong with the old bridge. That second complaint is wrong. The old bridge was structurally unsound and in danger of collapse. It would have ended up being closed anyway. Repairing the 100-year-old Pedestrian Bridge would have cost more than the new bridge. The choice wasn’t between the new bridge and the old bridge. The choice was between the new bridge and no bridge.
The bridge project is taking a long time. We wish it could have gotten done faster, but when it opens we’ll probably soon forget how long it took, and look forward to enjoying the crossing for another 100 years.
Planning the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre history center