Until about 30 years ago, the Dan Patch swing bridge carried cars across the Minnesota River to Bloomington from thinly populated Scott County.
Now, with Scott’s population more than triple what it was back then, some local officials are floating the idea of reopening the Dan Patch bridge to vehicle traffic. But in Bloomington, that idea is about as popular as a bacon sandwich at a kosher deli.
Last week, the Bloomington City Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing a Dan Patch river crossing — as well as “any expenditures, staff time or other associated work, to study or develop this proposed vehicle crossing.”
Allowing vehicle traffic to cross the river onto Normandale Boulevard would overwhelm a road that already has serious traffic issues, Bloomington officials said. A study funded by the Scott County Community Development Agency predicts that reopening the bridge could bring 30,000 vehicles a day across the river on a two-lane road, and 45,000 vehicles a day on a four-lane road.
“We are already facing traffic and safety concerns on Normandale,” said Bloomington City Council Member Andrew Carlson, who represents the area. “Normandale Boulevard is really a residential corridor through the city.”
Carlson said the city “wanted to kind of get in front of this one. There have always been rumored discussions in the background on this. So now that there has been some real money spent, we wanted to make our position known.”
The $78,000 study by Kimley-Horn & Associates is merely intended to “create conversation,” said Barry Stock, Savage city administrator. But as Scott County grows, it’s important to plan for future needs, he said.
“It’s time for people to wake up to the fact that in Scott County, we’re not going to get any new river crossings,” Stock said. “So how do we ignore the existing river crossing that’s there? We’ve got an existing crossing right there. Why can’t we talk about it?”
The Dan Patch swing bridge is owned by Twin Cities & Western Railroad Co. It’s still functional, but is rarely used; it most commonly sees action when barge traffic on the river is overloaded and some goods are moved by train instead. According to the Kimley-Horn study, the railroad “is willing to engage in a discussion about reconstructing the road bridge and making it a toll facility for commuters.”
Stock acknowledged that “big issues” would need to be settled before the proposal could move forward. But with planning for such projects often taking decades, the time to begin discussing it is now, he said.
And he said he understands Bloomington’s point of view.
“If that’s what they think their constituents want, that’s what they should do,” he said. “But our people down here elected us to carry out their wishes, as well. And we all know we have a bottleneck at the river. It’s an opportunity, and it would be irresponsible for us not to look at it and keep it on the table.”