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Friday, March 27, 2009

Ohio: Stimulus Money Wasted On "Suicide Bridge"

Y-Bridge will be fenced
Stimulus funds to be used to try to curtail suicide attempts. Some call plan wasteful By Stephanie Warsmith, Rick Armon, and Bob Downing Beacon Journal staff writers

Published on Friday, Mar 27, 2009
One man jumped to his death off the All-America Bridge this year.

Two more used the Akron bridge — more commonly known as the Y-Bridge — to commit suicide in 2008.

Akron hopes to curtail future deaths on what has been dubbed ''Suicide Bridge'' by installing a fence.

The controversial fencing — some have been pushing for it, while others think it's a waste of money — was among the local projects the state approved Thursday for federal stimulus funds.

''It just makes a safer Akron for everybody,'' said Robert Conley, who has been urging the fencing since his son, Kevin, jumped off the bridge to his death in 2006.

''It just makes a safer Akron for everybody,'' said Robert Conley, who has been urging the fencing since his son, Kevin, jumped off the bridge to his death in 2006.

Akron received the most stimulus funding of any local community — $21 million for four projects, including $7.5 million for improvements to the Y-Bridge. (The fencing is expected to cost $1 million to $1.5 million; the rest will go toward new decking for the 28-year-old span.)

Other area projects given the green light include the replacement of the Brady Lake Bridge in Portage County, improvements to an outdated railroad crossing in Macedonia and resurfacing Interstate 77 in Stark County south of Canton.

These were among 149 infrastructure projects approved by theOhio Department of Transportation, which is responsible for awarding $774 million in federal stimulus funds.

In awarding this first group of funding, the state tried to provide funds to every region and to support ''unique regional economic assets,'' Gov. Ted Strickland said.

Cleveland had the largest project — $200 million for a new, five-lane westbound Interstate 90 Innerbelt bridge. Another $200 million in state and federal dollars are expected to be spent on the project.

Akron also was awarded funds for improvements to South Main Street from Firestone Boulevard to Waterloo Road — a project tied to the new Bridgestone Firestone technical center — and for Frank Boulevard from White Pond Drive to Ayers Avenue. The city also got money to design a new State Street bridge.

Mayor Don Plusquellic, who was among a small group of mayors who often traveled to Washington, D.C., to discuss the stimulus legislation with federal leaders, was happy with Akron's share. He estimated the projects will create or retain 240 jobs.

''This is consistent with the intent of the president and Congress when they passed the recovery act,'' said Plusquellic, who has been critical of the stimulus requests of other local communities. ''This is for something we actually need in this community.''

The projects will keep jobs, add jobs and keep people safe, Plusquellic said.

Also in Summit County, the state approved funding for improvements to the Norfolk Southern railroad crossing at Twinsburg Road in Macedonia.

The changes will help create a federally recognized ''quiet zone'' at the tracks, which are located in a residential area where Macedonia, Hudson, Northfield Center Township and Boston Heights meet. A quiet zone is an area where trains don't blow their whistles.

''This is exactly what we needed, and now we can move full-speed ahead with the project,'' said Hudson resident Greg McNeil, who has been pushing for the quiet zone for about a year.

The project, which includes installing medians to control and slow motorists, could be completed in the next six months.

Medina was the only local county selected by the state for stimulus funds for transit projects in rural areas. The county plans to use the approximately $3 million it received to design and build a transit facility, buy five new buses and repair other buses.

''We're very grateful for the money,'' said Mike Salamone, chief of Medina County Transit.

The current bus garage, described as being in ''poor shape,'' is off Meyers Road in Medina Township. The new, 19,000-square-foot garage will be on county-owned land on state Route 162 in Lafayette Township.

Portage County received funds for one project: a bridge replacement on Brady Lake Road outside of Kent in Franklin Township.

''We struck gold again,'' said Portage County Engineer Michael Marozzi.

The county previously received $1.7 million in state funds. The latest $1.1 million might be enough to pay the balance, though the county might have to ante up some money, Marozzi said.

The new, 166-foot-long, two-span bridge will cross the CSX tracks and Breakneck Creek. It is used by about 6,200 vehicles per day and is a shortcut for local motorists between Kent and Ravenna.

Local officials have been warned to spend the federal stimulus funds wisely.

Some would argue Akron's Y-Bridge project would be a waste.

One person, responding to a request for stimulus comments on Akron's Web site, wrote, ''Please do not build a fence on the Y-Bridge.''

Plusquellic, however, thinks this is a good use of the funds. He said anyone whose vehicle has been hit with a rock thrown from a bridge can appreciate the need for a fence. Plus, he said, if the bridge were built now, federal regulations would require fencing.

''Everywhere else that receives federal money, this is the standard,'' he said. ''Why should we be different?''

Conley, the Akron father whose son jumped from the bridge, said the expense is worth it if it makes anyone rethink suicide.

''It might force them to look at another avenue,'' he said. ''Maybe they get help. We know suicide is a temporary moment in people's lives. If they get past that temporary moment, maybe it doesn't happen.''


My Thoughts

''This is consistent with the intent of the president and Congress when they passed the recovery act. This is for something we actually need in this community.''-Akron Mayor

No, this not what they had in mind. It creates very few jobs and no shot of long term job oppurtunities. No, you really don't need the fence.

''We struck gold again,''-County Engineer Michael Marozzi.

That's nice.

First of all, how is a fence going to stop people from committing suicide. Even if they could jump off the bridge, they would be more than likely find another way. So, their reasoning for using stimulus money for the fence is bogus. Using that fact alone it's a waste.

Second, they are getting $7.5 million for improvements to the Y-Bridge. The fence is expected to cost only $1-1.5 million. What about the rest of the money? They are going to use it for new decking for the 28-year-old span. By definition, it isn't stimulus, if it isn't used immediately. Waiting 28 years to spend the money is just spending money.

Finally, they receied $21 mil for four projects. According to the Akron mayor, the stimulus would create only 240 jobs. That would come to a grand total of $875,000 of taxpayer money per job.

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