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Toledo City Council on Tuesday approved the demolition of a bridge that was deemed unsafe for car traffic more than 40 years ago but is still used by pedestrians between two older central city neighborhoods.
Council also authorized $50,000 to renovate a two-unit home in the Vistula District historic neighborhood, and to allow a developer to install a gas station on Byrne Road near Dorr Street.
Permission to demolish the Curtis Street bridge, an old steel bridge surfaced with wood planks, was requested by Norfolk Southern Railroad, which passes under it.
The bridge built in 1899 by the former Penn Central Railroad connects two declining neighborhoods off the Anthony Wayne Trail near downtown. According to council’s legislation, the bridge was identified as unsafe for vehicles decades ago and taken out of use as a road in 1970. In 1973, about 200 students used the bridge daily to get to Libbey High School, which closed in 2010.
Deputy Mayor Stephen Herwat said the route is no longer needed for safe school passage. The railroad would pay for the demolition, relieving the city of liability, maintenance, and inspection costs.
Councilman Mike Craig, whose District 3 includes the neighborhood on both sides of the bridge, said he spoke to one resident before agreeing to support the request. He said the city retains the right-of-way and can build a pedestrian bridge if it wants.
Tammy Matthews, who lives in the 1100 block of Western Avenue, walked her dog across the humped span Tuesday. She said she takes the route regularly to go visit her 79-year-old grandfather in a nearby trailer park.
“I’d hate if they tore this down. I’d have to walk 10 to 12 blocks out of the way,” Ms. Matthews said. The overpass also provides a connection to the Sterling Park baseball diamond a couple of blocks to the north.
Without the overpass, walkers will have to cross the tracks about a half-mile west at South Hawley Street, or walk and bike on the Anthony Wayne Trail. Some may venture across the tracks.
In other action, council voted 10-1, with one member abstaining, to approve $50,000 for the renovation of 1026 N. Huron St. by United North community development corporation. Terry Glazer, chief executive officer of United North, said the group has $200,000 budgeted for the project that he said will preserve an important building in the historic district. The house was acquired from the Lucas County Land Reutilization Corp. in March.
The building is close to the “blue house,” at 1017 N. Superior St., a historic, 5,000-square-foot Dutch colonial home that United North is planning to renovate into five rental units.
City Council President Paula Hicks-Hudson, who represents District 4 that includes Vistula, said she’s hoping for some synergy to revitalize the neighborhood.
“This is an opportunity to take a blighted house in a very depressed neighborhood and provide decent housing,” Ms. Hicks-Hudson said.
The no vote was cast by Councilman Tom Waniewski and the abstention by Councilman Joe McNamara, whose wife, Valerie Moffitt, works for United North.
The most contested item on council’s agenda, a request for a permit to add fuel sales to a carryout at 1223 N. Byrne, passed 7-5. Councilman Tyrone Riley, who represents District 1 that includes the location, said neighbors fear the development will bring added foot traffic and crime.