Multiple reports of motor vehicles crossing Moscow’s Third Street pedestrian bridge forced the city to install signs advising drivers not to cross the new bridge.

Moscow Acting Public Works Director Tyler Palmer said he received reports of three vehicles crossing the bicycle and pedestrian-only bridge since its opening June 29.

Frank Bongiorno, who lives next to the bridge, said he has witnessed one out-of-state vehicle slowly cross the bridge. He said his wife saw a couple other cars go over it and he has heard of a few other incidents of motor vehicles unlawfully crossing.

Two signs, which read “no motor vehicles,” were posted on both sides of the bridge earlier this month, Palmer said.

Palmer said he has not heard of vehicles crossing since the signs were installed; however, Bongiorno said, he was told a motorcyclist went over the bridge after the signs were placed.

“It’s one of those things that you’d think would be intuitive but, you know, if there’s a bridge there people are going to want to try and cross it so we installed the signs,” Palmer said.

If cars continue to cross the bridge, Palmer said the next step could be to install a bollard — a sturdy, short, vertical post — to prevent motor vehicles from crossing.

He said a bollard was not initially posted because bicyclists can clip their handlebars on it, especially at night, which could cause crashes and injuries. Plus, Palmer said, the city wants the bridge to be as open and unobstructed as possible so bicyclists and pedestrians, especially large groups, can cross safely.

“If we can avoid having to put up a bollard and just get people to comply, that’s better for everybody involved,” Palmer said.

He said the city could also install cameras at the bridge and issue citations to drivers who cross, but Palmer said he hopes the signs are sufficient.

According to Moscow city code, it is unlawful to operate a motorized vehicle on any restricted bike path or pedestrian walkway. If the code is violated, the driver could be issued a misdemeanor citation.

Palmer said the bridge has not sustained any damage from the vehicles that crossed. He said the bridge is structurally designed to support a maintenance vehicle to clear snow from it, so he is not concerned about the bridge collapsing from a vehicle driving on it.

A heavier vehicle could cause structural damage, Palmer said, and even regular-sized motor vehicle traffic accelerates degradation of the bridge’s surface.

“We want to keep bikes and peds on it, and only have vehicles cross when it’s for maintenance purposes,” he said.

Aside from the handful of drivers who perhaps decided to use the bridge as a shortcut, Palmer said the bridge has been heavily used by walkers and bikers and he has received great feedback from users.

The bridge is designed to be temporary as the city moves forward with the construction of a multimodal bridge open to vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. Palmer said at the bridge opening there is no proposed funding in the fiscal 2020 budget, which starts Oct. 1 this year, for a multimodal bridge. If a multimodal bridge is funded, the existing Third Street bridge could be moved to another part of town.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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