Capital Boulevard bridges being rebuilt, redecorated

Abby Pikett, Staff Writer

The city of Raleigh is rebuilding two bridges on Capital Boulevard as well as spending almost one million dollars for art that will decorate the ongoing construction. The replacement of the bridges by the Department of Transportation (DOT) is part of a huge state-funded plan to improve a one mile stretch of Capital Boulevard.
Due to structural deficiency, the Wade Avenue bridge over Capital Boulevard and Capital Bridge over Peace Street no longer hold up to DOT standards since being built in 1948. With a sufficiency rating of 44.9 out of a possible 100, Capital Bridge is in much need of repair. Raleigh has no choice but to rebuild both bridges, and with that project, they decided to hire artist Vicki Scuri Siteworks to create original, modern art for the updated bridges.
The suburban Seattle based artist has worked on projects like this before, Scuri’s art appearing on many kinds of bridges, parking garages and other public works across the United States. This will be Scuri’s first project in the Triangle.
The total cost of the project is estimated to be about one million dollars. To compensate Scuri, 40,000 of it will be for her, while at least 879,700 dollars will be needed for materials, installation and lighting. This money will come from a transportation fund used for DOT projects.
In an interview with the News and Observer, executive director of Raleigh arts, Sarah Powers, commented on the city’s project, “(Public art) helps us tell our story of the city and, I think in a bigger picture, it is a way for us to show the values we have for the community. It provides color, storytelling and an experience. It is a place to stop and notice what is around you. It showcases the different ideas we have as a community.”
A rust-colored design resembling oak leaves and flowing water will be created on the steel and concrete sidewalls of the bridges, covered with a metal grill. Along with the art, the grills will be backlit with LED lights which will turn on at night. The ongoing DOT plan also includes more greenery and sidewalks to be incorporated into the area to make it more pedestrian friendly and welcoming.
“Raleigh is one of the leading communities in design,” said Elizabeth Luna, graphic design teacher at Athens. “(Art) gives our city a personality,” She added, “Making your city beautiful is just as important as making it functional.”

The intended design for the new bridges on Capital Boulevard is meant to represent oak leaves and flowing water.

Though these bridges will greatly improve traffic and accessibility, some still see it as an unnecessary waste of property tax money. Last year, Raleigh voted to increase the property tax rate to 42.5 cents per 100 dollars in valuation, a .7 cents increase. Also, the City Council required that one-half percent of the cost of city construction projects go towards public art in 2009. That percentage increased to one percent in 2016.
“Beautiful design has an impact on mental health and well-being. While I agree the money could be used to cover other areas (affordable housing, first responders, city workers needs, etc.). I am not comfortable with the idea that art should be considered an extra and only funded when everything else is covered,” Said Farrall Hilton, Athens art teacher.
Construction of the bridges is expected to last until the fall of 2019.