Blocking the bridge

Toll roads already exist for pedestrians. This weekend it will cost three dollars to cross the Congress bridge, the most direct and convenient route for many South Austin walkers headed downtown. No doubt it will be the same for people on bicycles. So much for Austin as a walkable city! Some of the very busiest bus routes will be detoured all day Saturday and all day Sunday. This weekend, Roadstar Productions repeats everything about BatFest, born on South Congress under another name and then morphed and moved to the bridge last year. Since the event itself is scheduled to start sometime in the afternoon on Saturday and the bridge is closed tomorrow beginning at 7:00 am, it’s probably not even possible to cross by paying a toll for several hours. At least, that was the case last year. We didn’t like it last year and we don’t like it any better this year. This affects emergency response times, also, in a river-divided city. The City’s site lists this as a major closure.

10 Comments so far

  1. Tim (unregistered) on September 1st, 2006 @ 10:06 am

    I agree charging to cross a pedestrian bridge is crazy, but really – The South 1st bridge and Lamar bridges are all within about 2 miles. It’s not like South Congress is the only way into downtown. Part of living downtown in a big city is that roads are going to get shut down occasionally. That’s part of what makes a city vibrant, remember?

  2. SolMan (unregistered) on September 1st, 2006 @ 10:34 am

    Yes, you are a whiner. Go about 1/2 mile south and take the S. 1st bridge.

    Geez – You remind me of my neighborhood assoc. Always complaining when anything fun happens by the river. That’s why I live here, dammit! It’s not because I like paying $8k/year in property taxes.

  3. Rantor (unregistered) on September 1st, 2006 @ 10:35 am

    It’s not a pedestrian bridge. It’s a major bridge for major bus routes. Bus connections are going to be spoiled all weekend. Perhaps you don’t walk much in the heat. For a person trying to get from home to, say, Little City or someplace to eat on or near Congress, this is a major detour to get back to Congress, in distance and in time and in effort and in hilliness as well. If the distances you cite are correct (don’t have time to check), that still makes what would be a walk of a little over a mile into one more like four and more.

  4. Rantor (unregistered) on September 1st, 2006 @ 10:40 am

    What neighborhood association? Just wondering. Somebody paying $8K a year in property taxes is unlikely to suffer any direct inconvenience from having a nearby public amenity taken over by private interests that charge admission.

  5. DSK (unregistered) on September 1st, 2006 @ 11:01 am

    People, people… don’t look at this as a hassle. Look at it as an Opportunity. Get your canoes and other non-motorized boats down to Town Lake this weekend and start rowing people across near the bridge, but for $2.

    An aside: Does anyone else remember the late-90’s El Mercado commerical with the arguing builder, hippie, redneck, frat boy, and techie? Then the announcer says something like “people, people! let’s all get along and go to El Mercado!”

  6. Rantor (unregistered) on September 1st, 2006 @ 11:08 am

    Three bucks isn’t all that much money if it turns out to be necessary to pay it, though under protest; it’s the principle of the thing. I do believe that it’s a public-safety hazard to close down the bridge. Last year, there were booths and stages set up all along its length. It appears that there will be some closing of the streets at either end of the bridge, as well. This is unlike closing some streets in a grid, where there’s a way around the obstacle without much of a detour. No major city of my acquaintance shuts down major thoroughfares or parks and requires its citizenry to pay to use them. Parades are free; concerts are free.

  7. Julio (unregistered) on September 1st, 2006 @ 11:27 am

    If it’s a public safety hazard to close the bridge for Batfest, then using the same logic one could argue that Austin’s numerous running events pose the same hazard. You can’t use the street for free during those events either.

    But I don’t agree that Batfest poses a public safety hazard. The South First Street bridge is a suitable detour. And the streets of Downtown do form a grid. So getting from South Austin to Downtown when the Congress Avenue bridge is closed is not that difficult – all you need is a sense of direction.

    Public street closures for events is actually quite common in major cities. I’ve seen them in Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle and Paris, so this is not unique to Austin.

  8. Rantor (unregistered) on September 1st, 2006 @ 11:41 am

    The running events are indeed a nuisance for bus riders and for those getting around in a car. And I believe that they do pose a public-safety problem, both for EMS and for firefighters. It’s about response time, where seconds count. I’ve never seen much blocked off to walkers at those events; spectators are welcome, and for free. There’s no problem with a sense of direction and no problem for people in private vehicles.

  9. Rantor (unregistered) on September 1st, 2006 @ 11:46 am

    About the aside: I don’t remember the El Mercado commercial. One I do remember has to do with Schlotsky’s and Zinsky’s and substitutesky’s (accept no). “Accept no substitutesky’s” is registered by Schlotsky’s. It always seems to be that there was another competitor besides Zinsky’s that ended in sky’s, but I can hardly ever find anybody who even remembers Zinsky’s. Other –sky’s?

  10. M1EK (unregistered) on September 1st, 2006 @ 2:49 pm

    City to Festival Organizer: The cost to shut down the bridge, except for a pedestrian route to be kept open, = $X. The cost to shut down the bridge completely = $X + N, where N is a Large Sum.

    $N is then deposited in the Austin Pedestrian Infrastructure Fund.

    Problem solved. NOT FOR STEALING.

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