Stimulus "transportation" funds used on hero bridge
Source D. Ohmans
Date 15/04/22/17:18

The proposed design of the Veterans Bridge
created by Matrix Design Group for the
Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo.

Council to see Veterans Bridge plan
The $1.3 million span will honor the names of some 5,000 local veterans.

IT'S SAID THAT beauty lies in the eye of the beholder and City Council will get its chance Monday night to behold the planned Veterans Bridge - the $1.3 million pedestrian span at the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo that will carry the names of up to 5,000 local veterans.

Pueblo County commissioners got their look at the bridge design Thursday morning and clearly liked it. Commission Chairman Jeff Chostner, a retired Air Force colonel who has been involved in the project, said the just-designed span will be a fitting celebration of the Pueblo veterans whose names will be engraved on it.

Gus Sandstrom, the chairman of the HARP Authority and a former Army paratrooper, said the bridge - designed in just five weeks by Matrix Design Group - has been elevated to a piece of art on the strength of an additional $600,000 in federal stimulus money that has been awarded to the project. "This isn't just a span of steel and stone anymore," Sandstrom said after briefing the commissioners. The concrete-and-steel bridge will feature two granite pyramids that will carry the names of the 4,000 local veterans whose families have contributed to the bridge project to honor their service. Sandstrom said the new design will also allow an additional 1,000 names to be added.

Although HARP and local veterans groups have been working on the bridge project for several years, the project is now racing ahead, based on the stimulus money that Greg Severance, the county's director of public works, obtained for the project from the Colorado Department of Transportation. The federal stimulus program requires the bridge to be designed, bid and under construction in the next few months. HARP Executive Director Jack Johnston said the bridge itself will be completed by May. The engraved pyramids and other veterans features will be completed for the official ribbon-cutting next Nov. 11.

Not everyone loves everything about the project though. It is art, after all.

Council President Vera Ortegon serves on the city's planning commission, which approved the bridge project at its meeting on Wednesday. But Ortegon voted against it. She specifically objected to the long, curving ramp that would be built to provide wheelchair access to the bridge.

"I think the bridge is beautiful. I just believe the long access ramp is hideous," Ortegon confirmed Thursday. "A ramp at one end is fine. But the long ramp should be replaced by an elevator. If it takes more time to raise a little more money, so be it."

Sandstrom said an elevator would cost considerably more money than the project has within reach. He estimated the construction cost of a handicapped-access elevator at roughly $300,000, plus annual maintenance costs.

"Elevators also bring their own problems," Sandstrom said. "We've had nothing but support from the disabled community for this design."

The commissioners gave Sandstrom their endorsement for the project Thursday. Council could do the same Monday night.

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