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Pedestrian Bridge In Raleigh Sparks Debate About Cost

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Many people say the Triangle needs more ways to get around without a car. Construction started Friday on a bike and pedestrian bridge that will span the beltline near Wade Avenue.

But, at a cost of nearly $4 million, the bridge is sparking debate: Is it worth it?

"Right now, when you're cruising down the Beltline approaching Wade Avenue, it's a pretty open skyline," Department of Transportation engineer Greg Perfetti said. "But a year from now, there'll be a big change out here."

The triple bow string bridge is designed to be 660 feet long and 12 feet wide. It will be the only structure spanning the Beltline specifically for bikers and walkers.

"This is definitely the first of its type in the state," Perfetti said. "Normal pedestrian bridges don't have any kind of flare such as this, so we are proud of it."

The originality and pride come at a cost of $3.8 million.

The Department of Transportation has plans to build a multi-million dollar pedestrian bridge over the Beltline in Raleigh. Should road money be used to pay for it? Yes No

When asked if the DOT has received any criticism from people who think the structure may be an extravagant expenditure, Perfetti said: No. Not at all.

"The community has been very supportive," he said.

The community of visitors to WRAL.com, however, have not been supportive of the project. Participating in a WRAL.com poll asking if state money should be used to pay for such a bridge, 71 percent of more than 1,200 respondents said: "No."

Drivers interviewed by WRAL on Friday offered mixed opinions:

"It is a bad idea in this economy," said one. "We don't need to be wasting money. Nothing against people who ride bicycles, but I think that's a little far-fetched right now."

Said another driver: "I think it's a good thing. It keeps people basically safe, out of harm's way. It keeps them off the road, makes it a lot easier for traffic."

When asked why a biker-pedestrian bridge is needed over the Beltline, Perfetti said: "Well, what we're doing is connecting the greenway. There's a greenway that heads out toward Umstead Park."

The finished structure will allow people to travel by bike or foot from Hillsborough Street near Meredith College to Umstead State Park. Raleigh kicked in $600,000 toward the bridge project, and the North Carolina Museum of Art helped with the design.

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