When the new glass bridge, Ponte della Costituzione, opened in September 2009, the fact that it was not handicapped accessible quickly became a huge controversy. Free vaporetto service was offered between Piazzale Roma and the train station to handicapped travelers in an attempt to remedy the situation. Not long afterward, the bridge began to be retrofitted to transport the handicapped across the bridge.
I've been watching the construction for months, eager to be able to blog about it. For a long time, all I could see was a red pod-like contraption sitting at the base of the bridge on the train station side of the canal. There was construction going on, slowly, on the edge of the right side of the bridge, but it was hidden from view behind a large cloth cover. Being able to see this pod made me very curious about how this would all work. I envisioned this pod being moved across the outer edge of the bridge, hanging over the water, but quickly discounted that. Couldn't be, I thought.
In the last week, I've been able to catch some good photos of the new handicap system on the bridge as the work gets closer to completion. Still no announcements about an opening date, but I sense it's not too far off now.
The pod starts out on the ground, where I imagine they will load a handicapped person with wheelchair into the contraption. It will obviously require an operator who will elevate the pod up to the bridge level. Once there, it will traverse along the outside of the right side of the bridge, over the open water across to the other side. Once on the Piazzale Roma side, the operator will lower the pod to the ground where the passenger will be able to disembark. I've made the assumption that an operator will be required to run this gadget. I don't imagine any person unfamiliar with this would be able to enter the pod and figure out how to raise/lower it, or get it across the bridge. I'll be curious to learn if my assumptions are correct. I'll find out soon enough.
Here are a few of my photos from the other day. They must have been testing out the raising/lowering of the pod. I'd never seen it off the ground before.
Maybe it's just me, but I just don't see many handicapped travelers arriving in Venice for the first time being brave enough to travel across this bridge, hanging over the Grand Canal. Can't wait to see how this all turns out.