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My Way

My Way

Still no stairs

September 28, 2011 - Telling people what they want to hear – with absolutely no intention of actually doing it – in order to get what you want is the essence of politics.

Politicians call them promises.

Regular folks call them lies.

No one on either side really has any faith in what's said, but we go through the motions because that's what we're used to. Sadly, it's all we know.

I'm thinking about promises, lies, etc. this week because on Monday, I was on the Polly Ann Trail bridge over M-24 snapping some photos of a professor and some students from Lawrence Technical University.

Part of the reason the good folks from LTU visited Oxford is because they're going to help the Downtown Development Authority figure out ways to give trail users, particularly those crossing the bridge, easier access to the downtown area (see Page 16). Anyone who's familiar with the trail bridge knows it was never designed to allow users convenient access to the downtown.

The two giant ramps that lead to the bridge afford absolutely no connection to Washington St. (M-24). One ramp is located off Pleasant St., while the other is located near the intersection of Center and Louck streets.

Despite all the rhetoric prior to the bridge's construction about how it was going to greatly benefit the downtown area by creating more foot traffic and spurring economic development, the structure was actually designed for one purpose only – to get trail users safely across M-24.

The reality is the bridge discourages trail users from visiting the downtown. It actually diverts them away from the shopping district by keeping them on the trail.

Back in August 2004, Oxford Village Planning Commissioner John DuVal suggested incorporating staircases, connecting the bridge with M-24, into the design to make it "more conducive" to downtown pedestrian traffic. The idea was to allow pedestrians the option of getting on and off the bridge at Washington St. as opposed to going out so far of their way by using the ramps.

Larry Obrecht, the guy who spearheaded the bridge project, told DuVal he thought stairs were "a good idea."

"And I'll attempt to incorporate it," Obrecht said. "I can't envision that being very expensive . . . I'll be pleased to pursue that and see if we can install a staircase."

In a Dec. 30, 2004 e-mail to Oxford Village Manager Joe Young, Obrecht wrote, "It was always my intent to handle the stairs" through the bridge contractor as a "change order" rather than engineering them into the plans, which "seems to incur an expense that's not necessary."

Steve Allen, who served on the village council at the time, smelled a rat. He publicly stated, "We have asked for those stairways, but we've yet to see them in writing . . . I want them to be committed to paper and an approved site plan document, so they will be required to be built."

Despite all this talk, when the trail bridge was finally erected in October 2006, it included no staircases.

Five years later, there are still no staircases and no plans to install any.

Back then, I said Obrecht had no intention of building those staircases. I said Obrecht was just shining village officials on to get his project through. And I was right.

Five years later, Oxford's left holding the bag, trying to figure out how to get trail users off the bridge and into our downtown businesses.

Is it any wonder why I'm so cynical when it comes to government folks and their empty words?

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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