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Tulsa City Council Takes Issue with Pared-Down New Arkansas River Pedestrian Bridge

City of Tulsa

Tulsa City Councilors are less than thrilled with the new Arkansas River pedestrian bridge after their latest look at it.

The Gateway Bridge will replace the old railroad bridge at Zink Dam. Previous renderings showed a structure built on a $35 million budget. That’s since been pared down to a design based on just the $27.4 million in public funds available.

At a presentation Wednesday, Councilor Crista Patrick quickly complained about the absence of shade.

"That, to me, is really sad that there’s not going to be any shade. You’re not going to have a lot of people that are going to want to sit out there in the middle of Oklahoma summers without any shade. It’s not like you can plant a tree out there," Patrick said.

Tulsa’s Gathering Place LLC Director and Trustee Jeff Stava is overseeing the bridge project. He said shade structures on pedestrian bridges are uncommon, and this one would have to be built to withstand winds up to 75 mph.

"The very cheapest shade structure that would be safe … was around $5 million or $6 million, and that one really didn’t provide enough shade. It wasn’t a continuous shade. It was really more like if you’ve ever been under kind of like a pergola," Stava said.

The reduced budget also means concrete surfaces instead of wood decking and metal railings instead of wooden ones.

"Those will be so hot that no one will be able to touch them without being burned in Oklahoma sun," Patrick said.

"Yeah, there’s always a challenge with being able to maintain things, and one of the things that we’re very worried about – and you’ll know with the pedestrian bridge – you know, when you put wood out over water and it’s exposed to the elements, you get a lot of problems with splinters and splitting wood and those sorts of things," Stava said. "And so, we’ve really had to just stick – also with budget constraints – we’ve had to stick with metal."

Officials hoped to raise private dollars to make up any funding gaps but have not yet secured any. Builders’ bids were opened three weeks ago.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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