The new pedestrian bridge that connects Benton Harbor and St. Joseph is now officially open to the public! The bridge was built because of Whirlpool's St. Joseph Tech Center expansion project and connects Downtown Benton Harbor and the Arts District with the Inn at Harbor Shores and the Harbor Village residential development. The project was supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Whirlpool, Berrien County and Cornerstone Alliance.
The 12-foot wide, 210 foot span, steel bridge eliminates the natural barrier created by the Paw Paw River. It also creates a more walkable community for Benton Harbor and St. Joseph.
Here are some benefits of having a more walkable community:
1. More Active and Healthier People
The public health community is working to encourage Americans to become more active, and one of the major focuses of their efforts is promoting walking. It is inexpensive, it can be done by almost everyone, and-if conditions are right-it can be done almost everywhere. Walking for 30 minutes a day or more on most days of the week is a great way to improve or maintain your overall health.
2. People and Family Oriented Community Development
Roadway congestion and dependence on automobile travel detract from the livability of communities-particularly for seniors, parents and their children, and people with disabilities. New home buyers are looking for neighborhoods that are family-friendly, with sidewalks and calm traffic, green space and trails. A growing number of retirees are also looking for more walkable places and spaces in which to live, and more options for travel.
3. More Transportation Choices
A vast majority of people believe that transportation is about more than roads, and that public transportation funds should be spent on improvements that benefit people and families. People are discovering the benefits to having a range of transportation options from which to choose. The goal should be to give people a range of transportation choices and encourage them to select the mode that makes the most sense for any given trip.
4. Independent Mobility for Children
Many parents and others are looking for opportunities that allow children to lead more active and independent lives. Having a more walkable community will decrease the use of cars, which will make neighborhoods safer for families to walk. For young people, independent mobility (i.e. walking or cycling in the neighborhood without adult supervision) is important for their physical, social, cognitive and emotional development.
5. Accessibility for All
Age and functional disability can reduce a person’s mobility. Fortunately, good pedestrian facility design can help ensure that virtually everyone can continue to enjoy some level of mobility. Providing walkways for pedestrians dramatically increases how well pedestrians perceive their needs are being met along roadways.
6. Lower Income Mobility
People in low-income households are nearly twice as likely to walk as people in other income groups. About a quarter of low-income households do not have a car and individuals in these households must rely on walking and transit for many of their trips. For these travelers, safe and convenient walking routes, including routes to transit hubs and stops, are a critical element of the transportation system.