Cynthia Cortopassi has become a local celebrity as she pushes for a sky-cab transportation system in the resort.
Cynthia Rose Cortopassi has had a vision for Atlantic City that she’s been trying to make reality for the last nine years.
That vision would have thousands of tourists and residents alike floating high above a city often plagued by traffic gridlock in state-of-the art gondolas traveling an endless loop around the resort.
And in those nine years, it would have been hard for any local to have missed the news about this vision completely. Cortopassi has held numerous press conferences and educational events. She’s met with casino executives and state and local officials. She’s received endorsements and support from a host of agencies and has even become a sort of quasi-local celebrity.
Interest in the idea ebbs and flows, but always, Cortopassi and her sky transit idea seem to resurface and never completely vanish.
Put simply, she has become the “Atlantic City gondola lady.”
“When I’m out and people see me, I am the gondola lady,” Cortopassi concedes. “I recently had a couple come up to me that only knew me from the news report and from my efforts. But you know what? When people do see me, they are always very supportive. It’s ‘We support you,’ and ‘Don’t you ever give up.’ I really draw a lot of strength from that.”
Of course the main reason Cortopassi, an agent for Salt Lake City-based manufacturer Doppelmayr CTEC, hasn’t seen her vision become a reality is simple — money.
The project would cost about $350 million.
And while she picks up endorsements (In 2009, for example, the National Green Energy Council endorsed the idea), finding the money for the project has been much more difficult.
“I’ve been at this for nine years and really, it has been one setback after another,” she says. “I originally had a commitment from Caesars, but then that management changed. Then I had MGM lined up as supporters, but then they left the city. I had Gov. Corzine as a supporter, but then came the election. Now I have Gov. Christie saying he will listen to me and I’m setting up that meeting.
“So it’s been a lot of setbacks, but I‘m more optimistic than ever,” she says.
That optimism comes from a series of recent announcements that have buoyed hope in the city’s future.
Cortopassi’s proposed route for example, would now include stops at a yet-to-be-built Hard Rock Casino, a yet-to be completed Revel casino (next to a revitalized Resorts) and then proceeding to the marina where a new Golden Nugget property awaits.
All of these projects have come after more than two years of seemingly constant negative news about the city’s declining market share.
“Right now, we’re on a roll,” she says of the city. “I think now may finally be the time this happens. And I am scheduling a meeting with Gov. Christie. He’s willing to listen and that’s very encouraging.”
Of course, ideas about how to improve traffic flow and better move tourists around the resort are as old as the Boardwalk itself, which of course was designed to give tourists a wide pedestrian way.
In the past, people have talked of elevated moving sidewalks and monorails. The cable-car system can seem just as farfetched.
But Cortopassi comes armed with facts about the advantage of sky cabs, which have been built successfully in a number of locations including a smaller version in Portland, Ore.
According to Cortopassi:
• The system would offer an alternative to driving for partygoers in the city, reducing DUIs.
• The large supports for the system could include security cameras, increasing safety in the resort.
• The system would solve many traffic and parking problems in the city. Cortopassi envisions tourists parking their cars at casinos and not moving them again until they leave.
• The system would be able to handle the city’s notoriously windy weather, but would shut down if gusts reach 50 MPH.
• Financing for the project would be handled on a lease basis, thus making the system itself its own collateral.
Of course, she’s been making these arguments for nine years, and as of yet, there are no cable cars riding above the city.
As part of her job, Cortopassi does promote the use of cable cars in other places besides Atlantic City. But she says that even after nine years of trying, she has high hopes for the city.
“It has become very personal to me,” she says. “My bosses do say to me that they want me to pursue other projects, and I do that in a number of places. But I live here. And I see and know so many people in the city who need jobs and wonder where things are going. And I just know this can be a real benefit and game changer for the city. So yes, I take it very personally.”
And so the gondola lady keeps pitching.
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