Last night Laramie’s Mayor, Scott Mullner, held a public meeting to talk about the proposed alternatives that will hopefully replace the old Clark Street Bridge. Replacement of the bridge that was built back in 1963 has actually been a topic of discussion since 1997 as it nearing the end of it’s life span, but so far no action has succeeded in making a new bridge a reality. However it looks like a final solution may finally be chosen this summer with the completion of an environmental assessment on the three remaining proposed alignments for a new bridge.

It is no secret that the old Clark Street Bridge has some big problems as it degrades and concrete falls away, leaving re-bar and other structural elements exposed. One citizen asked if the city thought the bridge would even last until a new one can be constructed. City officials said that the bridge is evaluated every year and it is their hope that they can nurse it along until a new bridge opens but they make no promises. Another citizen became emotional when she explained her frustrations to the Mayor that it has taken so long to come up with a solution that looks to still be six years away. She cried and explained that she hates the thought that her daughter’s school bus has to cross the bridge daily. Scott agreed and said that this was the whole reason he called the meeting, to push for action on the project that is most acceptable to citizens. He said an environmental assessment is hoped to be completed in June or July of 2012, at which time the design process will begin on the chosen alignment. The design process will take another 2-3 years and in 5-6 years the city hopes to complete the bridge.   

Scott Mullner opened the public meeting stressing that its whole purpose was to get feedback from community members and decide which alternative route is most accepted by those living in the west side neighborhood that the new bridge would highly impact. He said that they want to build consensus with citizens now so that the process does not become bogged down with arguments and lose funding from WYDOT again as it has in the past. Each proposed alignment was presented to citizens with the map below; houses in green are considered historic, and those in red are not.

It is important to start off the discussion of these proposed alignment with the caveat that the location of the old Clark Street Bridge has been 100% ruled out. The new bridge will not be built in the place of the old one. Scott Mullner explained that the battle to do so has been fought for years and initally building a new bridge in the old one’s place was the goal. However, WYDOT and the highway department will not allow this to happen as a substantially wider bridge is needed that will not fit in the current location as too many businesses and houses would need to be destroyed. The new bridge and road on either side will be five lanes in comparison to the two that it is currently; two lanes in either direction plus a turn lane. Scott Mullner said that as they looked at alternatives for this new larger bridge, they started with at least six and he described the three routes that remain viable solutions today:

  • Blue – This alignment is also know as 1D and entirely bypasses the west side neighborhood taking only two homes, the least of any alternative presented. This route would carry a higher speed limit of 45 MPH, but would still add about a minute of drive time to the trip to get from downtown to West Laramie. There was some concern about emergency services and increased response time with relation to this route, but over all the blue route was not debated much. Scott Mullner did add that he feared people would have no reason to drive through the west side neighborhood, which he believed could hurt businesses and the like. If you have seen the Disney movie “Cars” think Radiator Springs here and you get the picture. Dicksie May, a west side neighborhood resident, preferred the blue route saying that she felt it would have the least impact on the community and improve living conditions, echoing other such statements. 
  • Orange - This alignment is also known as 1A and runs right through the west side neighborhood taking 12 homes, the most of any alternative presented. This route was written of by the Mayor and citizens alike and wasn’t talked about much. As you will read later on it was desirable to no one when these alignments went up for a vote.
  • Yellow - This alignment is also known as 1C and runs right through the west side neighborhood on the old railroad bed, taking 9 homes. This route would carry a lower speed limit of 30 or 35 MPH, and would most closely follow the route through the west side neighborhood that currently exists by touching down just west of Pine St. and allowing access from Cedar St. There would be a stop light at the intersection where the bridge meets Cedar Street at ground level to slow traffic as well. There were many concerns about putting a major street through the heart of the west side neighborhood; citizens felt it would separate the north and south portions of the neighborhood and be unsightly. Scott Mullner did say that the bridge will be very aesthetically pleasing as one million dollars alone will go into landscaping and beatification.

Not only were there concerns about the new bridge but also removal of the old Clark Street Viaduct. Residents heard rumors that in taking it down, house may be demolished in the process. City officials said that the removal of the old bridge would not require the demolition of any surrounding propoerty. However the city did inform citizens that they can call (307) 721-5226 to see if their home would be taken by any of the planned future bridge alignments. 

There were also a few other interesting details brought to light including the fact that the bridge would contain a large ten foot wide bike path on one side which would wind back to downtown Laramie. We assume it would connect to the green belt on the Laramie River as well. 

In the end, there was no real consensus on a single proposed alignment for the new bridge. When the alternatives went up for vote by a show of hands, 18 citizens voted for the blue route, 18 (Updated) for the yellow route and 0 for the orange route. The Mayor said that he fully intends to push for one of the routes preferred by citizens and that things will be more clear as the environmental assessment is completed. At that time there will be another public meeting. In the end though if certain routes are prohibitive because of cost, money could be the determining factor.

There were certainly many opinions on this topic and we want to hear yours; please vote for your preference in the poll below and if you would like to send us an opinion piece please feel free to submit it here. We will then collect them all in a single place for everyone to view and consider; make sure to like us on facebook for updates. You can also ask the city questions HERE.