Flanders and Riverside community members want a proposed footbridge that would connect Riverside with downtown Riverhead Town to blend in with the East End’s aesthetics, and voiced this and other opinions to engineers charged with designing the structure during a special meeting on Monday night.
Representatives from AECOM Engineering, the California-based firm that is being paid $85,000 by Southampton Town to design the structure, presented options for the Peconic Pedestrian Bridge in order to solicit feedback from those who be utilizing it the most. The design costs are being covered by a state grant already awarded to the town for the project.
“A modern look would clash,” Steven Schreiber, vice president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, said during the meeting held at Phillips Avenue School in Riverside. “The bridge should blend with the surroundings.”
Monday’s presentation, and the ensuing discussion, attracted about 30 people. Overall, those in attendance agreed with Mr. Schreiber, who added that he would like the footbridge to feature zig-zag access ramps on both sides.
Early estimates suggest that the bridge’s construction could exceed $1 million, but town officials revealed on Monday that they had applied for $2 million in additional state grant funds in June to offset the costs. It still remains unclear if the town will secure any of that funding.
AECOM was hired in June to design the bridge, which will connect Riverhead Town near the Long Island Aquarium with 14 acres of Suffolk County-owned parkland in Riverside that sits north of Flanders Road. According to sketches shared at the meeting, the footbridge would span between 70 and 100 feet in length, and be between eight and 11 feet wide.
“We don’t want to make it feel like a climb to the top,” Gonzalo Cruz, creative director and design leader for AECOM, said.
Mr. Cruz explained that the slope of the bridge needs to have a 5-percent incline if officials prefer the 100-foot-long version. The 70-foot-long bridge would require an incline of 6.33 percent. Anything steeper would violate regulations set by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, Mr. Cruz noted.
“We want it to be a comfortable walk for everyone,” he said, later adding that the crossing needs to sit at least 18 feet above the high tide waterline so it does not interfere with boat traffic.
The bridge will be designed to accommodate pedestrians only, according to AECOM representatives; bicycles will not be permitted. A pedestrian bridge that can also accommodate bikers would have to be about 20 feet wide and would cost twice as much, they said.
“We have to put it in a realistic realm,” said Southampton Town Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone. “This is a feasibility study … we’ll look to see what’s feasible, then decide if it works for the community. We have to put the chicken before the egg in this case.”
Residents also chimed in on the look and feel of the bridge. Designers presented six options: painted metal, pre-fab truss, designed truss, steel cable and metal, concrete with metal, and decking or a truss with decking.
Those present seemed to prefer a truss design, with either pre-fab material or wooden decking that would allow for seating along the bridge. The materials used for construction would have to be able to withstand exposure to corrosive elements—namely, saltwater.
“It needs to be classy, too,” said Lona Muldrow, a member of FRNCA’s executive board, while pointing to the sleeker, more modern designs.
“It’s gotta have a wow factor,” added Rich Naso, president of the Flanders Citizen Advisory Committee.
Moving forward, AECOM representatives will take the suggestions offered and start fine-tuning their designs. They also intend to come back with a more accurate cost estimate, and with a list of required permits to move forward.
Siris Barrios, community liaison for Riverside Rediscovered, the group that is leading revitalization efforts in the hamlet of Riverside, said she thinks the project fits in perfectly with her group’s efforts. “I think it enhances what we’re doing,” She said after the meeting. “We always say that the goal isn’t to compete with Riverhead, but to complement the other town.”
But not everyone agrees with that opinion.
Riverside resident Millie Roth said that the town should have applied for a different kind of funding—or, in the very least, chose to spend what it received differently.
“I just don’t understand,” she said, “There are homeless living in those woods right now. That money could have been used somewhere else.”
Other questions left unanswered Monday included which authority—Southampton Town, Riverhead Town or Suffolk County—would be responsible for maintaining the footbridge. AECOM officials said it is too soon to delve into these details, noting that it is also too early to speculate if local firms would be hired for construction.