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MDOT opens state-of-the-art pedestrian bridge, reunites Detroit's Mexicantown community
May 5, 2010 -- The city of Detroit has a brand new landmark and tourist attraction - the award-winning Mexicantown Bagley Avenue Pedestrian Bridge and Plaza. This state-of-the-art cable-stayed bridge, part of the Michigan Department of Transportation's (MDOT) $230 million I-75 Gateway Project, is the first of its kind in the state. The 407-foot-long structure spans I-75 and I-96, two of southeast Michigan's busiest freeways, and has reconnected Mexicantown, one of southwest Detroit's oldest neighborhoods. Mexicantown has been divided since I-75 was built in the area in the late 1970s.
Today, U.S. and Mexican government representatives, along with visitors from across the state, joined Mexicantown residents to mark the opening of the new pedestrian bridge and to unveil the two stunning new works of art that grace the bridge's eastern plaza. The event, co-sponsored by MDOT, the Southwest Detroit Business Association, and the Detroit Consulate of Mexico, also marked Cinco de Mayo and 200 years of Mexican independence.
"The pedestrian bridge is a significant part of the Gateway Project and its purpose goes beyond lending aesthetic beauty to the neighborhood," remarked MDOT Metro Region Engineer Tony Kratofil. "It is an investment in Mexicantown and southwest Detroit that will improve mobility, safety and quality of life for residents. This bridge, and the other Gateway Project infrastructure improvements, will help increase commerce by supporting the more than 600 businesses in southwest Detroit. It will attract new businesses, spur economic development, and support Detroit's $5 billion-a-year tourism industry by encouraging travelers to visit the Detroit Welcome Center, the Mexicantown community and attractions throughout the city and state."
Easily visible from the Ambassador Bridge and other points in the city, the pedestrian bridge rises 150 feet from the freeway floor. VanTine Guthrie (now InFORM Studios), a Michigan-based architectural firm selected from a national design competition, created a capstone structure for the project that earned an American Institute of Architects Detroit Honor Award for the bridge's design.
To celebrate Mexicantown's heritage, Michigan artist Hubert Massey created two works of art that comprise the Mexicantown Bagley Avenue Pedestrian Bridge and Plaza Community Art Project. The art project was funded by a federal grant obtained by MDOT.
Chosen from among 46 applicants, Massey met with community members to hear their stories and thoughts in order to ensure that their vision was reflected in the finished product. The spiral concept that dominates both works was suggested by one of the meeting participants.
The first work, entitled "Spiral of Life," is a mosaic of handcrafted tile in dramatic hues that traces the history and culture of the people who call Mexicantown home. Measuring approximately 40 feet long and 5 feet high, it is located on the eastern wall of the bridge.
The second work, called "The Spiral Kinship," is made of textured aluminum and features a vertical form that reaches 12 feet into the air. A bronze-colored globe mounted at its point represents universal kinship between two sovereign nations.
"People need identity, to feel proud of their history, to have it told. My job as an artist is to make that happen," said Massey, a former linebacker for Grand Valley State University. His work can be seen throughout Michigan, including at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit and the Flint Institute of Art.
A true community effort, the Gateway Project benefited from active involvement from the southwest Detroit community, the city of Detroit and a host of local, state and federal agencies who contributed to the project in a variety of ways.
"MDOT has been connected to the people of Mexicantown and the city of Detroit throughout the 25 years that we have been associated with the Gateway Project," said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. "From the very beginning, we were determined to construct a project that would provide for the safe movement of people and goods through this vital corridor while preserving Mexicantown's unique role as a family neighborhood and a tourism destination. Be assured that our commitment to this community is as strong as ever and will continue for years to come. MDOT believes in Mexicantown. We are proud to work with and for the residents of this wonderful community."
MDOT says: Construction work zones need your undivided attention.
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