The finalists have been revealed and they’re gorgeous.
After much hard work and considerable public input, the Creative Corridors Coalition unveiled the designs for the bridges it’s proposing to span the future Business 40 at a meeting in the Hanesbrand Theatre recently, the Journal’s Wesley Young reported.
They include a bridge with graceful arches inspired by our local oak trees, a bridge with illuminated spires that echo our traditional Moravian stars and a pedestrian bridge that incorporates planting beds and greenery.
The plan also contains improvements for Martin Luther King Jr. Drive – which will become more important while Business 40 is closed – and other portions of Business 40.
The main designers, noted architects Donald McDonald, Walter Hood and Larry Kirkland, spoke to a packed auditorium about the inspiration for their designs.
“When you drive though this town at 40 or 50 miles per hour you ought to come away with an image,” McDonald said.
And despite a certain amount of skepticism some might have for that idea, it does seem likely that these bridges will be memorable – and not just to passers-through, but to residents as well.
Beginning next year, Business 40 from the western point of the Peters Creek Parkway interchange to U.S. 52 in the east is scheduled to be closed for a four-year, $80 million renovation project. Some entrance ramps will be eliminated and some lengthened. And the bridges that connect downtown with West Salem and Old Salem will be completely replaced.
There’s no doubt that having such fancy bridges costs extra, and the Department of Transportation doesn’t normally cover the cost of aesthetic improvements and all the elements and materials that entails. But the Creative Corridors group plans to cover most of the extra expense with private donations, and has already secured some: $250,000 from the John W. and Anna H. Hanes Foundation, $200,000 from the James G. Hanes Memorial Fund and $100,000 from an anonymous donor. It hopes to raise about $5.2 million privately, combining that with city and federal funds to maximum benefit.
We realize that some still would rather we have “no frills” bridges that don’t risk burdening taxpayers. There’s nothing wrong with that opinion. But we think a miniscule amount of public funds for the remainder, if called for, would be well worth the investment.
“No frills” strikes us as being reminiscent of the boxy utilitarian designs of Soviet Eastern Berlin. Sure, they work, but who would want to look at their blandness day in and day out?
As was pointed out at the meeting, we will be living with these bridges for the next 70 or so years; they will represent our city and our investment in ourselves. The bridges will not only be a source of transportation, but a sign of our unity as residents of a city in which we take pride. Let’s get them right.