EDITOR: What if our transportation decisions were based on improved public health outcomes? Looking at a bicycle and pedestrian bridge as an investment in reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering blood pressure, improving mental health, decreasing asthma attacks from lower air pollution exposures and reducing the risk of obesity makes the $10 million or $20 million price tag seem like a bargain.
Compare that cost to the $91 million spent annually on health care costs in Sonoma County due to physical inactivity — a primary cause of obesity, which has become an epidemic in Sonoma County. According to Kaiser Santa Rosa, 50 percent of fifth-graders are overweight or obese, dramatically increasing their risk for poor health and premature death. It is expected that this generation of children will be the first to have a shorter life span than their parents.
Is this the kind of future we are going to support? Splitting Santa Rosa in half with Highway 101 left the town with an automobile habit that's hard to break. The bicycle and pedestrian bridge is an important step to reconnect the halves of Santa Rosa and help reverse the alarming increases in chronic disease. It also offers huge benefits to the community by making the healthy low-cost transportation choice the easy and safe choice.