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April 28, 2009

Naming Hot Metal Bike Bridge Right

The most excellent Chris Briem has a recent blog entry at Null Space (highly recommended) about Hamilton Ontario's view of Buffalo vs. Pittsburgh. The article in the Hamilton Spectator features comments from former Mayor Tom Murphy — which prompts Chris to renew his call to name the Hot Metal Bike Bridge for Mayor Murphy.

I like(d) Murphy, then and now. I think he was a policy wonk willing to get his hands dirty, a choir boy who got business done in a traditional Democratic machine city; a mensch. Not perfect. Not canny. Led with his chin. Ended up in an agreement with the Feds to avoid prosecution. He did a better job than I would have.

He was a primary force behind turning waterfront into trails and usable space. He's now a Senior Resident Fellow at the Urban Land Institute.

I love naming the Hot Metal (Bike) Bridge after Tom Murphy, in that it recognizes a trail advocate along the trail. I'm not sure that it's the best use of this opportunity.

Naming rights are a big thing. PNC Park? Heinz Field?

What does the trail need? How can we use the opportunity to name the Hot Metal Bike Bridge to meet the trail's needs? What can we obtain by naming the bike bridge?

The trail (by which I mean the regional trail system, including the Pittsburgh to DC corridor) needs to figure out bicycle access through Sandcastle. It's the only remaining gap in the trail without a solution - the other gaps are agreed-upon works in progress.

Sandcastle is private property. Somebody owns it. Somebody paid for it, invested in it, developed it, gambled on it. I don't believe that eminent domain applies (nor should it). The trail organizations, loathe to route around SC because the options are terrible, need to find a way to induce SC to permit cyclists to cross their property.

The negotiated solution will probably include these factors: (1) a release from liability; (2) public investment in highway access to Sandcastle/Kennywood and drainage improvements; (3) some sort of marketing inducement-in-kind.

I think it might serve best to name the bike bridge the Bike Bridge — which would name, incidentally, the bike bridge that people from Pittsburgh would use to ride their bikes to Sandcastle.

It might get business done, and that's something Tom Murphy would appreciate.

We can name the Mon Wharf trail segment for Tom Murphy.


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