The ECOSS staff just got back from the South Park Bridge Press Conference where the bridge replacement Environmental Impact Statement was signed by Kathleen Davis, Director of Highways and Local Programs at the State Department of Transportation; Harold Taniguichi, Director of the Department of Transportation; and Dan Mathis, Washington division administrator for the Federal Highway Administration. With all plans approved, the replacement of the bridge can move forward pending funding from the federal government.
We have long heard the reasons why this bridge needs replacement. It has a sufficiency rating of four (out of 100). Truck traffic volume is between 4-10 million tons of freight per year. Over 20,000 vehicles per day cross the bridge. For those of us who work and live in South Park, we are well aware of the potential impacts of closure.
But the most compelling speech came from long time South Park resident and ECOSS supporter Geoff Belau who discussed the bridge’s symbolism to the community, and who was kind enough to let us post his speech here.
GOOD MORNING. MY NAME IS GEOFF BELAU. I AM A 10 YEAR RESIDENT OF SOUTH PARK, I’M AN ARCHITECT, AND I’VE BEEN A MEMBER KING COUNTY’S COMMUNITY ADVISORY GROUP FOR SOUTH PARK BRIDGE REPLACEMENT SINCE 2002.
I’D LIKE TO START BY THANKING EVERYONE WHO HAD A HAND IN GETTING THE PROJECT THIS FAR. IT IS AN EXCITING AND ENCOURAGING THING TO BE STANDING HERE TODAY TO WITNESS THE SIGNING OF THIS DOCUMENT, WHICH SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE WORKED SO HARD TO PRODUCE. ON BEHALF OF THE SOUTH PARK COMMUNITY, THANK YOU.
I’D LIKE TO TALK ABOUT SOUTH PARK AND WHAT THIS BRIDGE REALLY MEANS TO THOSE OF US WHO LIVE AND WORK HERE.
THE FIRST TIME I CROSSED THE BRIDGE I FELT LIKE I WAS TRAVELING THROUGH TIME AS WELL AS SPACE – THE BRIDGE WAS LIKE A PORTAL TO ANOTHER WORLD. SOUTH PARK IS A HIDDEN GEM THAT FEELS LIKE A SMALL TOWN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CITY. THE NEIGHBORHOOD IS HEMMED IN BY THE RIVER, THE HIGHWAYS, AND INDUSTRY, BUT IT IS ALSO PROTECTED BY THESE THINGS. WE’VE GOT A FARM, A RIVER, BUSINESSES, INDUSTRY, PARKS, A SCHOOL, A NEW LIBRARY, TWO COMMUNITY CENTERS, AND A BRIDGE. WE’VE ALSO GOT ONE OF THE MOST DIVERSE, CREATIVE, HARD WORKING, INTERESTED, AND ENGAGED POPULATIONS IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON.
SOUTH PARK WAS, AND STILL IS, LARGELY A COMMUNITY OF IMMIGRANTS AND MINORITIES. THERE ARE OLD TIMERS AND NEWCOMERS, BLUE-COLLAR AND WHITE-COLLAR WORKERS, MANY DIFFERENT ETHIC BACKGROUNDS AND LANGUAGES. WHAT WE ALL SHARE IN COMMON IS THE WISH TO LIVE IN A SAFE, FRIENDLY, AND VIBRANT COMMUNITY. THE NEW SOUTH PARK BRIDGE IS AN IMPORTANT ELEMENT IN KEEPING OUR COMMUNITY THRIVING IN THE 21ST CENTURY AND BEYOND.
OUR NEIGHBORHOOD BUSINESSES DEPEND ON THE BRIDGE, AND WE, THE INHABITANTS OF SOUTH PARK, DEPEND ON THE NEIGHBORHOOD BUSINESSES. AT A TIME WHEN WE, AS A SOCIETY, ARE LOOKING FOR WAYS TO REDUCE OUR ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT, THE IMPORTANCE OF NEIGHBORHOOD BUSINESSES CANNOT BE OVERSTATED. A REPLACEMENT BRIDGE WILL HELP EXISTING NEIGHBORHOOD BUSINESSES TO THRIVE, AND ENCOURAGE NEW BUSINESSES TO OPEN. A HEALTHY BUSINESS DISTRICT, IN TURN, HELPS TO SUPPORT A HEALTHY COMMUNITY. AND A HEALTHY COMMUNITY PROVIDES MORE SUPPORT FOR THE BUSINESSES IN A CONTINUING, MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL RELATIONSHIP.
THE SOUTH PARK BRIDGE IS AN IMPORTANT ACCESS ROUTE INTO, OUT OF, AND THROUGH THE NEIGHBORHOOD. I USE THE BRIDGE ALMOST DAILY. MOST OF MY NEIGHBORS DO, AS WELL. BUS ROUTES CROSS THE BRIDGE. BUSINESSES DEPEND ON THE BRIDGE FOR FREIGHT MOBILITY, AS WELL AS ACCESS TO SERVICES AND CUSTOMERS. EMERGENCY VEHICLES USE THE BRIDGE AS A PRIMARY OR ALTERNATE ROUTE. BUT TO ALL OF US WHO LIVE AND WORK HERE, THE SOUTH PARK BRIDGE IS MUCH MORE THAN JUST A TRANSPORTATION LINK.
I’VE CROSSED THE BRIDGE ON A BUS, IN A CAR, ON A BIKE, AND ON FOOT. I’VE BEEN A PASSENGER ON RIVER TOUR BOATS AND PADDLED CANOES AND KAYAKS UNDER THE BRIDGE. I’VE SEEN IT FROM THE AIR WHILE COMING IN FOR A LANDING AT SEATAC. I’VE WATCHED THE EVENING LIGHT CHANGE ON THE BRIDGE FROM THE RIVER BANK, AND LISTENED TO THE MUSICAL SOUNDS OF VEHICLES CROSSING ON THE DRAWBRIDGE GRATING. I’VE WORN ITS IMAGE ON T-SHIRTS AND A BELT BUCKLE, AND SEEN ITS SILHOUETTE PROJECTED ON THE WALL OF THE LIBRARY.
QUITE SIMPLY, THE SOUTH PARK BRIDGE IS AN ICON TO US, POSSESSING A SYMBOLIC POWER THAT IS EVERY BIT AS IMPORTANT AS, IF LESS QUANTIFIABLE THAN, IT’S UTILITARIAN PURPOSE. THE BRIDGE IS AN ANCHOR TO OUR COMMUNITY. IT IS A METAPHORICAL BRIDGE AS WELL AS A PHYSICAL ONE, LINKING THE PRESENT TO OUR SHARED PAST, AND TO OUR HOPED-FOR FUTURE. THE SOUTH PARK BRIDGE IS, BOTH LITERALLY AND FIGURATIVELY, THE GATEWAY TO OUR COMMUNITY.
ONCE AGAIN, A GREAT BIG SOUTH PARK “THANK YOU” TO EVERYONE WHO WORKED SO HARD TO MAKE TODAY POSSIBLE. NOW LET’S BUILD IT!
Thanks again to Geoff for letting us post his speech!, and to everyone who has worked so hard to get this project underway.