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Your Views: Downtown bridge could be signature gateway into city
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 San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge. Manhattan has the Brooklyn Bridge. London has the London Bridge. So why shouldn't Gainesville-Hall County have the "People's Bridge?"

The idea suggested last week by the Gainesville City Council to build a pedestrian bridge from the square to Brenau University at Washington Street is an idea worthy of serious consideration. In fact, there are a number of sound reasons why Gainesville and Hall County should build this bridge.

First, as a matter of public safety. Anyone attempting to cross E.E. Butler/U.S. 129 near Washington Street faces a veritable river of high-speed traffic. U.S. 129, as it travels between Brenau and downtown, is a major arterial highway and not fit for pedestrians to cross safely. The time it takes to wait for the traffic light to change and actually cross the wide highway makes walking both inconvenient and dangerous.

Secondly, a bridge would be good for business. A pedestrian bridge would provide easy and safe access for students, hospital and medical workers and others to patronize downtown restaurants and stores. Likewise, downtown workers could take advantage of businesses in the Brenau neighborhood.

The bridge would encourage biking and walking which is one of the Northeast Georgia Medical Center's health initiatives and it would be possible for people to actually commute without automobiles to their jobs and classes. A bridge would allow Brenau to expand into the downtown area with potential residential housing for Brenau and future medical school students.

Thirdly, an aesthetically pleasing and well-designed bridge could become a signature gateway for Gainesville-Hall County and the Northeast Georgia Mountains. One might imagine a suspension pedestrian bridge whose architecture plays off the mountains seen on the horizon.

A visit to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens canopy bridge gives one a sense of what could be possible. The Gardens have a brand-new environmentally conscious pedestrian bridge that winds through the treetops of Piedmont Park. Nothing short of spectacular, the same concept could easily work for Gainesville.

This should be a public-private endeavor. The Hall County Board of Commissioners and the Gainesville City Council could initiate a design competition for the bridge by soliciting drawings and conceptual designs for the project. The public, both individual and corporate, could donate funds through a "buy a brick" type program and the city and county could use a combination of grants, stimulus funds and SPLOST.

The cost for the new bridge already under construction linking downtown to midtown is approximately $2.3 million. Assuming a comparable cost, this is quite reasonable for a major infrastructure improvement which could have such a positive impact on the community as well as being good for business.

Finally, a pedestrian bridge between downtown and Brenau would provide the last missing link in a network of sidewalks and trails that already connect the lake, downtown, midtown and, in the near future, Gainesville State College.

For those who dislike the idea of a pedestrian bridge which encourages walking, biking and healthy living, get used to $5 a gallon for gasoline.

Daniel A. Summer