Siegel: Bridges to nowhere
The hypocrisy of the city was on full display at the last council work session. Staff argued that its straight shot would offer up to six evacuation lanes. Yes, more lanes in our future while ignoring that fire danger exists now and the existing evacuation routes need to be improved. The wildfire danger is not on hold until a new bridge is built 10-15 years from now.
And six lanes — the city has never said that current evacuation routes are inadequate and certainly never told us before that six more lanes are needed. Why emphasize the issue now? Because the current rhetoric is a transparent effort to resuscitate its nearly dead straight shot by fear mongering. But the Record of Decision, touted by the city as having currency, lists “evacuation access” as one of 10 equally weighted criteria. It speaks only of having an alternative means of evacuation and not of any deficiency in capacity.
What credibility that remains following an extensive, deceptive and incomplete “outreach” campaign is lost by this disingenuous and hollow emphasis on public safety. The inconsistency between this PR effort and the lack of action since the Lake Christine Fire in 2018 stand in stark contrast to each other. The money ($600,000) for straight shot propaganda consultants would have been much better spent improving what we have to work with now.
Why not now improve Powerplant Road and clear brush along the Rio Grande Trail, two acknowledged routes in addition to the Castle Creek Bridge? There are a myriad of other opportunities. Our first responders have comprehensive emergency plans tied to the available infrastructure to increase throughput and speed an evacuation.
Importantly, since all agree that time is of the essence, the city should investigate now whether building a new Castle Creek Bridge at the existing location can be completed sooner (and cheaper) than its straight shot. That may be the best solution.
In sum, the city cries “fire,” but has done little in the past and is willing to wait until about 2035 for any infrastructure improvements. That is textbook hypocrisy. It should not pin its hopes, and our safety, on a bridge that by all accounts will never be built.
Neil B. Siegel