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Atlanta is Blowing all its Safety Money on a Flashy Pedestrian Bridge

A pedestrian bridge rising over the Atlanta Falcons' stadium site is becoming a symbol of the city's misplaced priorities.

Pedestrian advocates say the city has about $1 billion in needed sidewalk and curb-ramp repair work. But such necessary safety investments are being shortchanged in favor of a $33 million pedestrian bridge over Northside Drive, between the Mercedes Benz Stadium and a MARTA station.

The costs of the bridge have climbed almost $10 million since the project's genesis, bringing Atlanta's contribution to $27 million, the urbanist site ThreadATL reports.

Worse, thanks to lack of funds, the city is putting on hold other complete-streets projects that would offer real safety benefits to a greater number of pedestrians than does a bridge catering only to a select number of stadium goers. City leaders recently cut such projects off the city's "Renew Atlanta" bond list for lack of funding. Meanwhile, the pedestrian bridge ate up $19 million in "Renew Atlanta" bond funding — when it wasn't among projects voters approved for such funds in the first place.

Darin Givens, a local walkability advocate, says it would have been much smarter to design a street-level safe crossing at Northside Drive. In fact, that's what the neighborhood -- Vine City -- called for in its master plan.

"It’s an amazing sum for a pedestrian bridge that basically serves the needs to people who are driving to the parking lots of Northside Drive so they can walk in the pedestrian bridge to the stadium," he told Streetsblog. "It basically gets pedestrians off the street so they don’t get slowed down."

"It’s completely antithetical to what we should be doing," he said. "We should be promoting more transit use."

The pedestrian bridge, however, was supported by Atlanta's previous mayor, Kasim Reed. ThreadATL's Lauren Welsh said the mayor wanted "something fancy for Super Bowl 2019."

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