Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Northgate pedestrian bridge goes unused

Yes, it's open, officials say of mall connector

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COLERAIN TWP. - If you build it, they will ... wonder if that thing is actually open.

The new walkway across Colerain Avenue is open but still needs painting and some final touches.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
The pedestrian bridge that spans Colerain Avenue was opened with little fanfare shortly before Christmas, at the urging of township officials who envisioned holiday shoppers moving easily from Northgate Mall to businesses across the street.

One can watch for hours without seeing a single pedestrian using it.

Part of the problem is, few people know it's open. Also, it's not completely finished.

"We still have to paint the bridge, work on the railings, and concrete walk," Ohio Department of Transportation spokeswoman Brenda Bradds said Monday. "It's open to the public but we haven't accepted all the work. It's still under the contractor."

"They opened it at our request," township Trustee Keith Corman said Monday. "It's a matter of getting used to it. We hope, too, as people become more attuned to it, it'll add a positive note to our restaurant row."

The bridge is adorned with large letters spelling out "Colerain" with the township shield. Officials wanted a signature, a source of pride.

Are some residents just not getting it?

"The problem is, it seems no one is using it," said Debbie Lee, who lives two blocks from it and passes it several times a day. "I realize it is too late for my opinion to matter, but it just seems like a waste of our money."

Township officials don't think so.

The bridge was built by the ODOT for about $400,000, part of a bigger project to improve pedestrian safety and lane-turning on Colerain Avenue.

After seeing ODOT's initial plans that focused more on function, the township allocated $110,000 to spruce it up, according to Administrator Dave Foglesong.

Trustees wanted nicer railings and bars, after likening the originally planned bars as "like you'd see in a prison," Corman said.

"It reflects on our community;" he added. "When people come to shop and eat, we want them to recognize Colerain in a positive way. It's, to put it in an old saying, a suspender-snapping."

But the opening "ceremony" consisted of nothing more than taking down the barriers that blocked the entrances on the east and west sides of Colerain's busiest thoroughfare.

It's been an unspectacular debut.

Corman said a more official opening ceremony might be held when the final touches are complete, and that it's too early to gauge its success.

For one, he knows there are a lot of shoppers out there like Charles Metzcar, 24, a lifelong Colerain resident.

On a recent afternoon at Northgate Mall with his two children, ages 5 and 3, Metzcar said he frequents the mall but rarely shops at the dozens of other businesses along Colerain Avenue.

One reason: "Traffic," he said.

E-mail toneill@enquirer.com

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