Funding for a pedestrian bridge to be voted on by the Dallas City Council Wednesday is a symbol of frustration for the Joppa neighborhood.
The historic Freedmen’s Town, where freed slaves once settled, has seen many broken promises over the years.
Residents of Joppa (pronounced Joppey) were told about this footbridge long before rail traffic became too busy and the surface level railroad crossing the bridge was closed to residents who walk or ride bicycles.
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A motor vehicle bridge constructed 20 years ago is too narrow for safe crossing by cars and people on foot.
That narrow vehicle bridge was built after a death in the Joppa neighborhood when ambulances could not cross the train tracks.
“This process with the pedestrian bridge has been going on already for years, since like 2015,” Joppa community leader Temeckia Derrough said.
Construction of the footbridge was actually approved last year but the Dallas City Council will vote Wednesday on accepting $1.2 million from the state, which is needed to actually start construction.
Approval of another $1.2 million from the state will launch the reconstruction of the hard to use Carbondale Street entrance to the other side of the neighborhood.
“Joppa is the poster child of inequity in the City of Dallas,” City Council Member Adam Bazaldua said. “They have absolutely been the community that gets the short end of the stick.”
Bazaldua was not in office for most of the Joppa history, but now that he is, Bazaldua said he is committed to seeing the neighborhood thrive.
Habitat for Humanity has built many new homes there. A new restaurant is even serving hot food in Joppa.
“There is so much cultural significance that we are trying to highlight and trying to lift up,” Bazaldua said.
After many years of talk about a new community center in the abandoned school building which was once the only place around for African American kids, the councilman said that plan is close to reality.
“Some exciting news should be coming public here soon,” Bazaldua said. “Our goal is to preserve it as much as possible, even if it’s just the outside façade.”
Derrough fears actual completion of the community center and pedestrian bridge will require far more patience.
“I think things are improving but not fast enough. We go back to time. How long will it take," she said.
Derrough said she is encouraging her neighbors to speak louder.
Bazaldua said he is seeking commitments that the pedestrian bridge be completed in three years instead of the five years that had been discussed before.