April 24, 2014

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The Eve of the Great Bridge Disaster

They're shutting down the Washington Street Bridge in Marietta for two months.

The plans for closing the Washington Street Bridge have been under discussion for several years... ever since the engineers decided that it needed serious attention and soon!

I was at a Marietta City Council meeting when it was being discussed and the proposal for how to  cope with the traffic rerouting was a hot topic.

The basic plan remains the same, to have major through traffic take the new Blennerhassett Bridge and local traffic can attempt to use the Putnam Street bridge into downtown.

That particular night, there seemed to be great concern about how to let the public know of the detours without killing the downtown traffic flow.

In fact, the officials seemed to not realize that we were taping their meeting and airing it on television.  It occurred to me that I could recommend something, so I spoke up..."As long as they use those large yellow digital letter signs far back enough, traffic will be able to see the detour long before getting stopped at the Washington Street bridge."

Silence.

Then the firestorm hit.  They didn't care about traffic being mis-routed...the concern was over the antique shops downtown and the flow of traffic in front of them.  The worry was that downtown business would dry up if it wasn't permitted to cross the Washington Street Bridge.

It taught me a lesson I already knew:  We report the news from meetings, we don't participate.

Still, with the appearance of these yellow signs this last week, I was reminded of this night's discussion.

It appears that the entire bridge is going to be shut down, not just one lane at a time...which will shorten the repair period by half.

But I still think it's a good thing that the semis and major truck traffic goes around Marietta.

My thinking is this way:  How many 18-wheel truckers look over at the store fronts as they rumble through town and think , 'Gee, I ought to stop and get the wife a gift?  How about a nice antique for the dinning room?'

I think Marietta has a reputation for being a friendly town with some great shops along Front Street... and people become more familiar with it, not by driving through it on the way to the expressway, but by events like Red, White and Blues,  Stern-wheeler Festival and downtown events on the levy.  At least, that's my impression.

Although there may be some hit to business due to this bridge closure,  I would think the proximity of the Putnam Street Bridge will keep that tourist trade going for at least two months, don't you?

We'll see this summer.

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