Friday, May 20, 2005

Sailing Above the Water

There is always someone coming up with a zany scheme to improve things around the city of Pittsburgh. The latest one involves dangling people from a wire and slinging them above a river:

Mt. Washington residents expressed mixed feelings at a community forum Thursday night about a proposed aerial gondola system that would link their neighborhood to the North Shore.
The gondola "would span the Ohio River with a cable", says the Trib. The view of downtown Pittsburgh across the Monongahela and the view of the North Shore across the Ohio from Mount Washington is truly breathtaking. When you bring someone to town, the smart thing to do is not to drive out of the Fort Pitt Tunnels and let the visitor be overwhelmed by the approach towards downtown across the Fort Pitt Bridge. That is a cliche that simply gives you a brief glimpse of some skyscrapers in one of the smallest downtowns in America. You take your guest up to Mount Washington and let them enjoy the panoramic view of Pittsburgh along the Ohio and Monongahela Rivers. The gondola would be an eyesore. But aesthetics are among the least of our concerns.

Residents last night voiced concerns about the proposal, including how the Mt. Washington gondola station would affect the planned site, which has been designated as a park. Some were concerned about the possible need to clear trees from the green hillside.

Concern also was expressed that an air tram system to carry passengers would reduce usage of the Duquesne Incline, which has had financial problems.

Nowhere in the article is there any mention of safety. This isn't just about depriving the neighborhood of a nice park or killing the happy trees on the hillside. A gondola carried above the river would be a public safety nightmare, should something go wrong. If the cable snaps, does anyone survive? The Duquesne Incline won't fall into the river from mid-air; its funicular railway is a much safer means of transportation than a boat on a wire. This is terrifying.

And who is going to pay for this venture, should it come to fruition?
The project is estimated to cost between $10 million and $12 million, according to minutes of the meeting.

"[Project Consultant Steve] Greenberg said he expects the state to provide the public funding, but he declined to reveal how much would be needed or which state agency would fund the project," said [Community Development Corporation] president Lynne Squilla.

Why? Why is it always public funding? Have they tried the private sector? Of course not; it would be too hard for the gondola people to find anyone willing to sink their own money into such a foolhardy venture. Instead, they are just going to suckle at the public teat and make fools of us all -- taking our money and putting us in harm's way.

No comments: