Asheville’s bridge to the future?

Self-described “presentation monkey” and city planner Joe Minicozzi offered members of the public a glimpse of the Asheville Design Center’s latest ideas for an I-26/I-240 bridge in an informal seminar Monday night. Two dozen people attended the first showing of Minicozzi’s newest presentation on how other cities have spanned their rivers with world-class structures.

Minicozzi said that state transportation departments typically construct slab-and-pillar bridges, similar to the Smoky Park Bridge, unless pushed by citizens who demand something different. He described the surface decoration sometimes added to such bridges as “putting lipstick on a pig.” He also said that other states have often been surprised to discover that more elegant designs can achieve results that are cheaper over time because innovative engineering can result in lower maintenance costs.

The following day, Linda Figg of Figg Engineering Group offered a presentation to members of ADC and invited community leaders. Figg’s company specializes in bridge design and has garnered three of the five Presidential Awards for bridge design ever awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts. The Presidential Award winners are the Sunshine Skyway in Florida, the Linn Cove Viaduct in North Carolina and the Natchez Trace Parkway Arches in Tennessee (pictured).

Following the ADC meeting, Figg met with Mayor Terry Bellamy and City Manager Gary Jackson.

The ADC has proposed a simpler, smaller solution to the pending remodel of the I-26 Connector through Asheville. While the state DOT plans call for nine bridges, the ADC suggested four, including a double-decker span for the confluence of I-240 and I-26. There are no double-decked bridges in North Carolina at present, according to Minicozzi, and when DOT responded, somewhat skeptically, to ADC’s design at a June 27 Asheville City Council session, their drawing for a double bridge entailed stacking one slab-and-pillar bridge on top of another. Minicozzi’s presentation included the DOT drawings, an engineering solution which creates a massive structure including 20-foot-thick supports beneath the upper span. But photos of other bridges in Minicozzi’s presentation showed double spans from around the world that used far less material to create graceful arches and curves.

Moreover, Minicozzi asserted that such bridges enhance property values in homes and offices that enjoy a view of the structures, as well as becoming signature pieces for cities ranging from San Francisco to Toledo to Charleston to the Natchez Trace span in Franklin, Tenn.

— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer


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About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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