uFixIt: Pedestrian overpass gets needed attention

December 2, 2011 9:47:40 PM PST
Last month ABC7 I-Team answered a plea in San Francisco's Bernal Heights to get a decades old sinkhole repaired once and for all. Then came another request, could the I-Team do something about an unsafe pedestrian freeway overpass they have to send their kids over every day?

It's a fast route for teenagers to cross over Highway 101 to catch a city bus on Bayshore Boulevard. For some kids, it's the only way to get to school.

"My 16-year-old daughter walks across that bridge and I feel frightened," Bernal Heights resident Laurie said.

Laurie asked if she could show the I-Team what they deal with every day.

"Neighbors of the east side of Bernal Heights we're just frustrated about this mess and walking over this is really scary," she said.

She says the neglected bridge is a prime spot for crime.

"Tagging, gang activity, we need to clean this up," Laurie said.

And it's a common place for people to set up camp.

"See this filth? We have some sleeping bags and garbage here, people obviously living here once upon a time," Laurie said.

More garbage, more graffiti and finally Laurie and the I-Team reached the bottom.

"After she goes through that, really disgusting walk, perhaps with someone sleeping or some feces, she gets on the bus and I tell her every day, 'You need to call me honey,' and she calls me, 'OK, mommy! I'm on the bus,' come on, please," Laurie said.

Laurie's neighbor rattled off a list of complaints.

"Needles, you can find crack pipes, feces all over there, their clothes their garbage," Rob Balcioni said.

Balcioni won't allow his daughters to cross the bridge. He says there's been too many assaults and he remembers running into a neighbor who'd just become a victim.

"He just looked really out of it and he was kind of like freaked out and I asked him what was going on and he said he was walking up the bridge and two guys tried to mug him," Balcioni said.

Balcioni wants the overgrown ivy taken down

"With everything all covered up on both sides there's no way to know if a crime happens there," he said.

The city agrees. Larry Stringer is the new director of operations at the Department of Public Works; he sent crews to start clearing the fences as soon as we brought it to his attention.

"So that people could feel comfortable that when they're walking there they can see everything that's there," Stringer said.

The bridge and the land around it is jointly managed by DPW and Caltrans. But this time DPW is taking the lead. Stringer sent a crew to remove graffiti and clean up garbage. He promised to bring in other city agencies to address the homeless camp.

"We do the best we can with what we have and try and be as responsive to the public as we can be," Stringer said.

But with less money, his department is often forced to do triage instead of preventative work in many neighborhoods across the city

"Because were not able to do routine planned maintenance for things like this so, due to resources," Stringer said.

But Laurie says when it comes to safety, some projects need to stay a priority.

"I'm hoping that my child will be able to have a clean bridge and some folks will have a clean place to sleep," she said.

It really does come down to money and how much DPW can keep throwing at a chronic problem in this neighborhood. The I-Team will keep an eye on this one.

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