COLUMBIA — Sparks showered down on Providence Road on Friday night as workers cut through the fence with a blowtorch on the pedestrian bridge between Douglass High School and the J.W. "Blind" Boone Community Center.
The bridge was removed Saturday morning, after a delay of a few hours caused by technical difficulties. The removal is part of a plan approved by the Columbia City Council in 2010 to make way for a new crosswalk with traffic lights and a median.
Authorities had set up a public viewing area Friday night west of Providence. Few ventured into the cold night to witness the tearing down of the bridge, but those who did had mixed opinions.
Columbia School Board member Jonathan Sessions said he came out to show the principal of Douglass High School the removal of the bridge via Skype. Sessions said he was happy with the change.
"I'm glad the city is working to make crossing Providence safer and more accessible," Sessions said. "The bridge isn't ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. Crosswalks will be easier, and traffic will actually stop for people. It'll be a much safer two blocks."
He also said the overpass wasn't very aesthetically pleasing, and that the crosswalk and median would help beautify the stretch of road.
Resident Michael Whitley, who said he has family members who use the bridge, disagreed with the decision and said he thought the city was messing up.
"They should keep (the bridge) because they need to think of the kids," he said. "If a guy is too drunk to stop, he's not going to stop for lights. The bridge is the safer option."
Although the bridge was predicted to come down between 9 and 10 p.m. Friday, some technical snags delayed the event. Rick Scott, owner of Scott's Cranes, said the concrete on the overpass was thicker than he expected, so the crew needed to chip off sections of the bridge to lighten the load on the cranes.
Troy Kinney, superintendent of the work site, said the original plan was to lift the bridge up with the cranes, set it down on the road, cut it into two pieces and then haul the pieces away.
Because the crew had to lighten the bridge, it was not removed until Saturday morning, when Providence reopened.