Back in July, city planning wonks were collectively appalled after finding records that indicated the serpentine bridge arched over downtown’s Northside Drive had cost upwards of $33 million.
After all, City of Atlanta officials had previously estimated the extravagant pedestrian walkway to have run up a tab of $23 million.
Now, though, fans of smart planning might have a new reason to pull their hair out: The bridge’s ultimate price tag appears to have spiked to nearly $42 million, according to some observers.
By using the city’s Open Checkbook database—a program Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’s administration launched to increase government transparency—an internet sleuth shared on Twitter a spreadsheet that indicated costs to design and build the Northside Drive bridge “ballooned to $41.7 million.”
The urbanist bloggers with ThreadATL have run the numbers themselves and found the updated price tag is “far exceeding the amount approved by the [Atlanta] City Council.”
But a City of Atlanta spokesperson, providing Curbed Atlanta with a spreadsheet showing payments made to contractor Georgia Bridge and Concrete totalling $23,222,524, said the project never exceeded the council-approved budget.
City officials admitted to CBS46 in July that the new Open Checkbook system was not showing accurate figures, and a few of the check numbers noted in the recent tweet have been logged multiple times in the database but with different amounts.
Curiously, one check number (2376347, for those who want to dig through the data) showed up as being worth 16 different amounts in the Open Checkbook.
To put the alleged number in perspective, though, remember that the Atlanta Beltline’s entire Westside Trail cost about $43 million.
Additionally, early estimates for the 100,000-square-foot mixed-use development Westside Village put that investment at $40 million.
And in Vine City, the under-construction Rodney Cook Sr. Park is slated to cost just $34 million—closer to the previously published cost of the pedestrian bridge.
In fact, for the price of just one Northside Drive pedestrian bridge, you could buy Tyler Perry’s former mansion on Paces Ferry Road twice right now.
In August, architects at Kronberg Wall published a report wagging a finger at the city for shelling out so much cash for a bridge—which wasn’t even open to the public during the Super Bowl—calling it “a glaring reminder that Atlanta is often not built to foster equity.”
“Coinciding with budget shortfalls in the Renew Atlanta bond program, this prioritization [of the bridge project] illustrates the disparity between public funding for flashy projects and basic city infrastructure like sidewalks and multimodal streets,” reads the Kronberg Wall blog post, which nods to the fact that officials used $19 million in bond premiums from the Renew Atlanta program.
This story was updated at 10:06 a.m. to include a response from a City of Atlanta spokesperson.