A comment in the article Access Week: Connecting Brown’s Island to Manchester via VEPCO levee this week prompted me to look up information on the Belle Isle pedestrian bridge, which I declared to be the one of the most bold and forward-thinking plans the city has had at the James River.
In 1989, the Richmond Renaissance (now known as Venture Richmond) “James River Discovery Program” resulted in the clean up of Belle Isle and Tredegar Street and provided for a pedestrian bridge slung underneath the new Robert E. Lee Bridge, which was completed in 1989.
The $2.3 million, 1,040-foot pedestrian bridge was constructed in 1991 and is suspended on steel cables under the Lee Bridge. James River Corporation was the primary private contributor to the construction of this bridge along the with Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Transportation. The views of the downtown skyline and the James River are tough to beat.
The pedestrian bridge had to be closed for a couple of months in early 2009 after a 3-foot piece of concrete fell from the Lee Bridge. The pedestrian bridge was closed to allow repair crews to erect a $20,200 canopy of wood and steel atop a 105-foot section of the span.
There have been other periods where repairs have been needed on the Lee Bridge above the pedestrian bridge, but opening up a path to Belle Isle has been one of the most wonderful additions to the downtown scene in the 30+ years of the James River Park.
(Some information came from The James River in Richmond by John Bryan and from the Richmond Times-Dispatch)