Río K’ellu Mayu Pedestrian Footbridge Design; Impact of Transportation Infrastructure on Community Social and Economic Well-being

Choubah, Sacha, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Gomez, Jose, EN-CEE, University of Virginia
Foley, Rider, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

This capstone addresses transportation infrastructure in rural communities. Specifically, the research centers on the Pocona Municipality in Bolivia, whose residents cannot cross the local K’ellu Mayu River for nearly half the year due to flooding. The community currently uses makeshift crossings to cross the river, however these are not reliable or safe. The project’s motivation is to design a suspended footbridge that serves the community, prioritizing the safety and well-being of its users while keeping in mind unique community needs. To deliver our design, we are producing a drawing package and calculations book, as well as a comprehensive design and construction report. Residents of Pocona requested that this bridge be built because the K’ellu Mayu River isolates residents from critical resources such as schools, health clinics and markets. Providing access to such resources will improve the community’s socioeconomic conditions and attract additional residents to the municipality. Therefore, considering the human and social dimensions of this project is vital as it is our responsibility to ensure our work, in both design and execution, supports the needs of Pocona residents. While the suspended footbridge project is focused on a rural community, it is important to recognize that poor transportation infrastructure is not limited to rural or developing areas. A lack of resilient, sustainable, and equitable transportation infrastructure in any community will single handedly restrict economic and social mobility. This leads to my Science and Technology in Society topic, which is to investigate how transportation infrastructure impacts community social and economic well-being. My research is conducted through the lens of Star’s concept of infrastructure, analyzing how transportation infrastructure is intertwined with socioeconomic infrastructures, focusing on the City of Charlottesville. To better understand the economic and social realities that Charlottesville communities face and how transportation systems influence community struggles, I conducted interviews with two local non-profit organizations: Sin Barreras and Charlottesville’s International Rescue Committee. I also conducted a third interview with Professor Andrew Mondschein of UVA’s Urban Planning Department. In addition to the interviews, I reviewed maps, government websites, and transportation policy and equity reports to better understand Charlottesville’s current transportation systems. Ultimately, I found that the current structure of Charlottesville’s public transportation system is not meeting the needs of low-income suburban residents. The current transportation infrastructure system has shortcomings that create obstacles to accessing job opportunities, affordable housing, health resources and education. Moreover, Charlottesville’s transportation policy decisions prioritize those who drive or travel by automobile over local community members who do not. Both my capstone and STS research highlight the importance of being cognizant of how transportation infrastructure impacts marginalized communities and their needs. Ultimately, this study emphasizes the social responsibilities designers and planners have when developing the built environment.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Footbridge, Transportation Equity , Structural Design

School of Engineering and Applied Science

Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering

Technical Advisor: Jose Gomez

STS Advisor: Rider Foley

Technical Team Members: Jessica Brown, Ronald Orellana, Calvin Reeves, Gabriel Witter

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: