Tobacco Trail bridge hits another snag
DURHAM (WTVD) -- After a decade of problems and skyrocketing costs, the American Tobacco Trail pedestrian bridge over Interstate 40 has seen yet another setback.
When this bridge does finally open, it will be have taken a decade longer than expected, and cost millions of dollars more than originally projected.
"Once that bridge is open, nobody is going to think 'Hey, that bridge opened late. Hey, it cost $11 million,'" said Durham Mayor Bill Bell at a dedication ceremony this weekend for the bridge.
City officials say in 2006, the bridge was set to open the following year at a cost of $4 million. Now, after yet another engineering setback, it may open in December, costing $5 million. If you add in the four miles of trail connecting it, that number jumps to a whopping $11 million.
When ABC11 asked Bell about his comments this weekend, he doubled down.
"Once this bridge is completed, people are not going to be concerned about how long it took, how much it costs," said Bell. "They're going to be more concerned more about the moment, and the moment it feels when they cross that bridge."
"To some extent, Bill Bell is right, said Ted Hick with the Durham County GOP."When people cross the bridge, they're not going to be thinking about the cost of the bridge."
Hicks said that's not the point. For him, it's about whether the money was spent wisely to begin with.
"The job of the elected official is to be the fiduciary of the money that's been entrusted to them," said Hicks. "To me the big issue is did we use our money effectively, and to me I would have to argue, I don't think so."
"You can't go back and recreate," said Bell. "Can't go back and stop the mistakes that were plaguing the bridge, can't go back and recoup the dollars that you had to invest in the bridge and so we have what we have."
When it's finished, what Durham will have is a 22 mile stretch of trail connecting Chatham and Wake counties which is way over budget and long overdue. However, Bell still thinks it was worth it.
"It was worth it. It was worth it," he said. "I guarantee you it was worth it.
The federal government kicked in the lion's share of money. In the end, the City of Durham paid about $300,000 and the state about $700,000.
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