Menlo Park City Council members made it clear Wednesday that they have no interest in rescinding a decision they made 16 months ago to demolish and replace a pedestrian bridge that links neighborhoods on opposite sides of Highway 101.
Council members said that despite the protests of residents in the Flood Triangle area just west of the freeway, their December 2007 resolution to construct a new Ringwood Avenue pedestrian overcrossing once Caltrans demolishes the existing footbridge will stand.
"I think connectivity is absolutely crucial, and this is a unique opportunity to keep and upgrade that connection," Vice Mayor Rich Cline said.
Residents of the Flood Triangle area Tuesday night submitted petitions with 262 signatures urging the City Council to reconsider. The petitions cite concerns that the new bridge will be larger than the existing one, resulting in more foot traffic, privacy invasion, property value losses and increased crime.
The petitioners also argue that residents were not notified of the $5.7 million project before the council's 2007 decision and just recently learned about it.
In response, an opposing "Save the Bridge" group presented the council with a 142-signature print petition and referred to an online version that by Wednesday had collected more than 430 names of people who support the original decision.
The Ringwood Avenue pedestrian bridge is one of just a few connections between the low-income Belle Haven neighborhood east of the freeway and the higher-income western side of the city. For Belle Haven residents, the bridge is access to transit, stores, jobs and Menlo-Atherton High School.
The council authorized an investigation into whether Flood Triangle and Belle Haven residents were properly notified before the council supported Caltrans' proposal to demolish the 53-year-old structure as part of its plan to add an auxiliary lane there on Highway 101 and replace it with a bigger overcrossing.
Unless it becomes clear from the investigation that residents on both sides of the pedestrian bridge were not properly notified in 2007, council members said they do not intend to change their minds.
"I certainly am committed to the process of rebuilding that bridge," Mayor Heyward Robinson said Wednesday. "I think the bridge is a vital link between two parts of our city."
Councilman Andy Cohen, who voted against the project in 2007 because he thought the community had not been properly notified, said he also has no interest in revisiting the decision.
But, he added, the lack of notification is why "you saw waves and waves of people complaining they hadn't heard about this."
Flood Triangle petitioners told the council Tuesday that they had a right to voice their opinion and insisted they had not been given a sufficient chance at the outset.
Belle Haven residents and bicyclists countered by arguing that elimination of the bridge would make it difficult to get to work and education centers in west Menlo Park.
At the request of council members, Assistant City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson said officials would post a fact sheet on the topic on the city's Web site by the end of next week.
The council also instructed city officials to work more closely with Caltrans, which is leading the project, in designing the bridge to ensure that residents' concerns are addressed.
"We need to hold Caltrans' feet to the fire," Cohen said.
Reach Mike Rosenberg at email@example.com.