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BREUKELEN, THE NETHERLANDS: Breukelen may have grown too big for its bridges, er, make that one bridge.
The quiet town on the not-so-mighty Vecht River has been engulfed in a debate for 40 years over whether it needs to supplement the centuries-old Breukelen Bridge with a second crossing.
The bridge is of course a major local landmark and a source of local pride, older in fact than Washington Roebling’s more widely recognized suspension bridge, a fact that Mayor Ger Mik points out to visitors, who have included our own Borough President Markowitz earlier this year.
The debate has been perhaps the most-talked about public work project for this town, with the possible exception of the Centrum expansion project (but you know about that debacle).
“I hope to live to see it [built],” said Dick Seegers, a sexagenarian.
Elected officials think years will pass before a widely approved solution can be agreed upon.
“In the next 10 years it will be decided,” said Han Lyer, a member of the 15-person town council who pronounces her last name as “Lear,” rather than have people make an obvious joke about her political career.
Proponents in the town of 18,000 inhabitants has outgrown the charming 20-feet long drawbridge that is wide enough for one car.
They attribute a litany of problems to their only bridge, saying it causes gridlock on Brugstraat, the hardly Tillary Street-like roadway that is at the foot of the western side of the Breukelen Bridge. Others say the narrow bridge is a safety hazards on the other end, a prosperous outer area of large homes and two of the town’s three castles.
“We need new ways to get in and out,” said Thom Jongerius, a member of the town’s historical society. “It’s dangerous for cyclists and walkers.”
Others said a new bridge could reduce pollution in the heart of town, a compact area of squat buildings.
But the opponents, making an argument much like the foes of Robert Moses’s epic highway building, counter that erecting an alternate bridge will encourage more snarling traffic conditions.
There is also a contingent that doubts an additional bridge is even needed at all, though a pending independent traffic study is hoped to answer this question once and for all, said Mayor Ger Mik.
And then there’s the question of the name.
One visitor from Brooklyn recently suggested calling it the Manhattan Bridge.
“I’ll tell the town council,” Mik said.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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