Bill to increase bridge safety passes

Story by Haley Zblewski

During their Monday meeting, the Student Senate passed a bill via voice vote in support of cooperation between UW-Eau Claire, the state of Wisconsin and the city of Eau Claire regarding the construction of the Summit Avenue bridge.

The bill states that because the current level of the bridge railing at 34 inches is below waist-level of the average adult, it is unsafe for pedestrians to cross.

Steph Mabrey, director of the Student Services Commission of the Student Senate, said a change needs to be made for the safety of students.

“The goal is to get the railings higher because they only come up to about (waist level) on me, which is not tall enough,” Mabrey said. “It’s not a bridge you can safely cross with a bike.”

The water beneath the Summit Avenue bridge is shallow, adding an even greater risk of injury or death for pedestrians should they fall from the bridge, the bill stated.

The bridge is currently owned by the state of Wisconsin because it is considered a state highway. The state plans to reconstruct it and turn over ownership to the city of Eau Claire in 2015, according to the bill.

The bill is meant to urge the city of Eau Claire to move up the date of construction to be as soon as possible for the safety of pedestrians, including students, Mabrey said.

Mabrey said  that if the bridge is not modified sooner, it could be harmful to the safety of individuals who use the bridge.

“With the construction of campus, a lot of students will be forced to take it coming to the
university,” she said.

The bill also states that the height of the railings on the Summit Avenue bridge are an even greater hazard for those walking the bridge while inebriated. This is a problem because the bridge links Water Street to areas of student housing and other residences.

Mabrey said that the bill is being passed now so Student Senate can start working on getting the date of construction moved up. She said it will be something the senate works on a little at the end of this semester, but is something that will be passed on to next semester’s senators.