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Atlanta Spent $23 Million Building a Pedestrian Bridge for the Super Bowl That Pedestrians Can't Use

And even if fans could use it, $23 million is an insane amount of money to spend for a pedestrian bridge.

Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports/NewscomJason Getz/USA TODAY Sports/NewscomYou've heard of the "bridge to nowhere." Now meet Atlanta's bridge for no one.

In anticipation of hosting this year's Super Bowl at the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the city of Atlanta spent more than $23 million to build a pedestrian bridge linking the stadium to the nearby Vine City public transit station, allowing fans to cross a busy street without needing a crosswalk. The bridge was originally supposed to cost about $13 million—already pretty pricey for a simple pedestrian crossing over a four-lane road—but city officials approved an extra $10 million in funding last year to ensure the project would be finished in time for the big game, which kicks off Sunday evening.

The serpentine bridge—decked out with dazzling, customizable LED lights and wrapped with diamond-shaped aluminum panels—did indeed get finished in time for the Super Bowl.

But it won't be used by the vast majority of the expected 80,000 people heading to the game on Sunday. Because of it's location adjacent to the stadium, the bridge has been deemed a security risk and will be closed to everyone except credentialed staff and media, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported this week.

Fans heading to the Super Bowl will have to enter through various security check-points well outside of the stadium grounds. That means anyone arriving at the Vine City station on the other side of the $23 million pedestrian bridge will get to admire a very expensive piece of public art as they cross the street the old fashioned way—though the bridge will be "open for attendees to exit at the conclusion of the game," the Atlanta Falcons told the paper.

Via TwitterVia Twitter

Even by Atlanta's standards, paying $23 million to build a bridge that no one can use is a pretty incredible screw-up. This is, after all, the same city that spent $98 million building a streetcar line that's literally useless for anyone except tourists—it runs in a 2.7-mile loop downtown around the Coca-Cola Museum, Centennial Olympic Park, and the new football stadium—then closed the streetcar when some 100,000 tourists descended on the city for last year's college football national championship game.

Just outside the city, the Atlanta Braves' new stadium—a disaster for taxpayers and fans in several ways, as I've detailed before—had its own issues with a pedestrian bridge that was supposed to connect the stadium with a large parking garage on the opposite side of Interstate 285. The bridge wasn't ready until the Braves' second season at SunTrust Park, leaving the team with inadequate parking (and forcing fans to play a human version of Frogger) when the new field opened.

Despite those issues, the Braves' pedestrian bridge across eight lanes of highway cost a mere $11 million—less than half of the final price tag for the now-useless pedestrian bridge at the Falcons' new stadium, which crosses a four-lane city street.

"That's how the City wants to impress out-of-town visitors. Not with our civil rights legacy, our cultural icons, our southern soul food, our urban tree canopy, or our welcoming diverse people," wrote Lauren Welsh, an Atlanta-based activist, in a post for the ThreadATL blog. "Instead, we believe tourists will think Atlanta is awesome because we have a snakeskin light-up bridge to cross a 4-lane road."

The unseen cost of this pedestrian bridge—like other urban boondoggles—is worth considering, too. What else could the city have done with the $23 million spent on this project? What else could Atlanta taxpayers have done with that money if it wasn't expropriated from them in the first place? Smart urban planning requires city officials to allocate finite resources to cover a wide variety of expenses while preparing for unexpected surprises. Spending $23 million on a foot bridge is a terrible decision, even without the embarassment of having it closed for the very event for which you spent an extra $12 million.

The extra spending is particularly galling because is was approved less than a year before the Super Bowl was heading to Atlanta. Surely, someone could have checked with the NFL or the FBI (which handles security issues for the Super Bowl) about the extent of the planned security perimeter for the big game. Those things are carefully planned—certainly more carefully planned than this pedestrian bridge appears to have been.

When the bridge was first proposed, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last year, city officials claimed it had nothing to do with the new stadium. It was supposed to be a way to connect the city's Vine City neighborhood to the downtown and just happened to be located immediately adjacent to the stadium. But when the city council approved the additional funding for the bridge in March of last year, an aide to the mayor's office explicitly connected the bridge project to the Super Bowl. "It's time-sensitive," Katrina Taylor-Parks, deputy chief of staff to Mayor Keisha Lance, told the paper.

And it got done on time. That's about the only part of this story that makes Atlanta look good.

Photo Credit: Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports/Newscom

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    What else could the city have done with the $23 million spent on this project? What else could Atlanta taxpayers have done with that money if it wasn't expropriated from them in the first place?

    I was about to jump all over Boehm for that first question, but he pulled it out with the second one. I say we give the $23 million to the terrorists. They won it.

  • Mr. Tibbs||

    I'm not willing to give him a pass on this line of reasoning. He prefaced it with "The unseen cost...is worth considering too." Too? What else is the problem with wasting taxpayer money other than the opportunity cost to taxpayers?

  • Rich||

    Because of it's location adjacent to the stadium, the bridge has been deemed a security risk
    [but]
    the bridge will be "open for attendees to exit at the conclusion of the game"

    Let me get this straight. It's NOT a security risk *after* the game?

  • Crusty Juggler||

    It's only a security risk when there is a big event happening.

  • Rich||

    Well, if the experts deem tens of thousands of people crossing a crowded four-lane road not a big event, that's good enough for me.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    No, silly. The game and broadcast will be over. Whatever happens to the peasants then is much less new worthy (and their own problem).

  • SimpleRules||

    Likely there's not enough room to properly queue up for security before entering the stadium, but that's not an issue after the game. Planning, planning, planning....

  • flyfishnevada||

    No one is going through security leaving the Superbowl. Just like no one goes through security when they leave the airport. They've been rounded up, had their privacy and person invaded and quarantined. Theoretically, there's no possible way they could pose a threat.

    But you might be right that they don't have room to queue people for security at that station.

  • Careless||

    They're not worried about people smuggling bombs into the superbowl after it ends, yes

  • Cloudbuster||

    Blowing up the fancy bridge, though...

  • Rockabilly||

    $23 million is a small price to pay for government trying their best.

  • Brian||

    This is why central planning is inefficient: they're not very good at planning.

    I assume this bridge will be closed for every game ever as a security risk.

  • libertynugget||

    Atlanta spent like 100 Million on a street car project that no one uses too... well by no one, I mean people who aren't homeless looking for a place to take a piss...

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Really! I would not have known that from reading the article. Thanks!

  • loveconstitution1789||

    MARTA smells like one fast moving toilet.

  • Billy Bones||

    You consider Marta "fast moving"? Toilet is accurate, though.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I was fast and loose with the term "fast". Agreed.

  • Careless||

    For a toilet? Gotta be pretty fast

  • AlmightyJB||

    What's important is that city council got their kickbacks from the construction companies.

  • Longtobefree||

    What I was heading to the bottom to say; but also the 'donations' to political campaigns and charities controlled by politicians relatives.

  • Flinch||

    That's about all it was worth. So what did they get...$4k for re-election? They could have skipped the fan dance and just lit a pile of cash on fire - at least voters wouldn't be poked in the eye every time they drove by the stadium. It's astounding to me that any city builds anything post 9/11 with zero concerns about security. I thought the stupidity threshold of California flip flopping from buying energy at spot during market lows, then locking in long term contracts during a peak couldn't be beat. Well, hellooo Atlanta!

  • Ben1234||

    Big non-fan of the streetcar... But my favorite Atlanta waste was when they decided they needed to redo the turnstiles at MARTA stations because they were too easy to hop over. So they spent a ton of money on designs, picked one, spent a ton to install them everywhere... And then saw that the 2 foot gap under them made it really easy to slide under, so the people who used to hop just started sliding. So then they spent millions more to add a bolt-on bar to the bottom of the turnstiles. It's looks ugly, and still doesn't block people from sliding if they are determined.

    And... The worst part is most of the turnstiles are really easy to just push through.

  • creech||

    Hey, if conservatives and libertarians would just shut the f*** up about free-loaders, the city fathers wouldn't have had to spend money on any turnstiles. Isn't it a human right to claim free shit that you haven't earned?

  • Earth Skeptic||

    But those are the same people that progressives claim love to share and sacrifice for others, for the good of the people.

  • Sonny Bono's Ghost||

    let me guess, the total cost of the new gates pluss add-on bar was more than the loss in revenue from hopper/sliders, am I right?

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Eric got it wrong--this bridge is a complete success.

    Some politicians got to grandstand before and after construction.
    Some bureaucrats got to hold endless meetings and look busy.
    Some crony capitalists got a return on their campaign contributions.

    What else is there?

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    I waiting to hear about the diversity of the company who built it, like that all chick form in Florida that build the bridge that collapsed and killed people.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    That's nothing.

    Turner Field became the Braves stadium by 1997 and they left it in less than 20 years.
    Braves stadium hardly a home run for Cobb taxpayers

    The Georgia Dome was completed in 1992 and was demolished to make room for the Mercedes Benz stadium in 2017.

    Fuck them, wasting taxpayer money. Certainly wasting so much for a building with a lifespan of only 25 years.

  • A Thinking Mind||

    It's certainly a huge disappointment, especially on the first front. When Atlanta got the Olympics for 1996, they were able to get all the new facilities built with no tax burden by relying on ticket sales and corporate sponsorships. The money Atlanta spent on the games was primarily in security and about $500,000 in infrastructure (roads, etc). Atlanta showed the model for creating sports venues that actually do bring in tax dollars without requiring taxpayer dollars to fund.

    The Braves then signed a 20 year lease on the Olympic stadium after it was converted, and left the stadium as soon as their lease expired. After trying to twist the city's arm for more money for a new stadium, they decided on the famously shady deal to move to Cobb County. That's after they'd forced taxpayers to pay for renovations on Turner Field less about 5 years before they moved out of it.

  • Wizard4169||

    Surely, someone could have checked with the NFL or the FBI (which handles security issues for the Super Bowl) about the extent of the planned security peremeter theater for the big game.


    "Perimeter" was misspelled. FIFY.

  • awildseaking||

    Public projects are like dangling keys in front of children. City officials just can't help themselves from wasting money to make a statement.

  • LibertarianScientist||

    Why is CBP in charge of security for a Super Bowl?

    Is the NFL reimbursing the US taxpayer for security performed by the CBP and thousands of other local law enforcement? Based on their record of fleecing taxpayers, I bet the answer is no.

  • Flinch||

    Feds have money coming out of their ears - they have run out of plausible reasons to expand agency budgets, and now grasp at any straw to make sure they spend all their [automatically increased] budgets in order to escape congressional oversight - cuts mean questions, and can't have that. This is what baseline budgeting looks like: stupidity on autopilot. Next up? "Security" escorts for crop dusters: middle America is about to grind to a halt. It'll take them $25M just to study whether they want to use fixed wing aircraft or helicopters.

  • Billy Bones||

    $23M to pay for a bridge that isn't being used is a huge deal, make no mistake. But put it into the perspective that the 2 starting QB's in this year's "Big Game" could have paid for that bridge with the money they earned this year for throwing a weird shaped ball.

  • Billy Bones||

    Or that $23M could have bought us 5-30sec commercials during "Big Game 53". Actually, 5 commercials would cost $26M, but close enough.

  • Sonny Bono's Ghost||

    was his weird-ball throwing salary paid for by taxes? NOpe?...Dont care, then.

  • Vitae Drinker||

    It was subsidized by them, though. See above arguments re: taxpayer funded stadiums, security, etc.

  • Liberty Lover||

    Sound like if it can't be used as a bridge, it could fulfill the grants to the arts for Atlanta. See kind of dual purpose. (sarc)

  • Frank Thorn||

    FIU Miami needs a bridge.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Strong enough for a man
    Made by a woman

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Tell me again what political party controls Atlanta?

  • Fk_Censorship||

    The ANC?

  • ImanAzol||

    What could they have done with $23 million? Made a start on renaming and re-signing half of the 87 fucking "Peachtree" streets. Preferably after the names of Union generals. Or hell, even after the Carter family and peanuts.

    Peachtree Road, Peachtree Street, Peachtree Place, Peachtree Boulevard, Peachtree Court. We fucking get it. You like peaches.

    The funnest prank you can ever play is to call 911 in downtown Atlanta and shout, "Hey, there's two black guys knifing each other at the corner of Peachtree and Peachtree!" and hang up.

  • flyfishnevada||

    UPS and FedEx must love that...

    The USPS, who cares? They'd probably mess it up no matter what the names were.

  • Flinch||

    Atlanta still has pay phones?

  • Flight-ER-Doc||

    Government is just another name for stupid shit we do together.

  • in4mation||

    " Because of ->it's

  • Bill Poser||

    So, why is the Atlanta city government so much stupider than most others?

  • Flinch||

    Their airport? It's so screwed up, Air France won't let them connect into their business systems. Their instincts get proved right time and time again. But I don't want to be opaque: airports typically serve as mayoral slush funds, if that points anyone in the right direction.

  • Longtobefree||

    Be fair now; the bridge CAN be used. It is for the purpose of security theatre that the bridge is being withheld from use as designed.
    Government thugs with guns are the only reason no one can cross. If it really was a threat, the favored few would not be allowed either - - - - - - - -

  • Flinch||

    Our only remedy is... for illegal aliens to start using the bridge, and today. Pitch tents, set up tables for voter registration drives, whatever. Maybe then the hacks running the city might rediscover [just maybe]: if you put police at both ends of the bridge, the old deterrent thing might actually work.

  • BarkingSpider||

    Typical bureaucratic incompetence.

  • tlapp||

    Let me guess, numerous environmental impact studies, requirements for recycled materials, union labor who need to pay part of it back in campaign donations. The job goes to a large company who also sent substantial sums in for campaign donations. Had it been built by a private company, a fraction of the cost. At least this was Atlanta, if the people living their voted for it they can change how they vote if it bothers them.

  • Alan@.4||

    What was that old saying, the one that went "people usually get the sort of government they didn't vote against"

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