View from Dinkytown bridge didn't last long

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 15, 2007 - 9:19 PM

Concerned for families, MnDOT reversed mayor's decision to reopen it.

The Dinkytown Bicycle Connection, opened Wednesday morning by Minneapolis city officials to give the public its clearest spot to view the collapsed Interstate 35W bridge, is closed again.

Mayor R.T. Rybak had said that reopening the span, also known as Bridge 9, would address the need of the broader community to pay their respects and "understand the devastation of this disaster." By 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which is now in charge of the scene, asked that the bridge be closed until the efforts to recover the four people still missing are complete.

"Recovery operations had slowed for the past several days, but the pace of the recovery efforts quickened again today," the mayor's office said after Bridge 9 was reopened Wednesday.

Rybak said he decided to open the pedestrian and bicycle bridge, about 1,000 feet downstream from the collapse site, after consulting with the incident command staff and victims' family members.

When Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek learned Tuesday that Bridge 9 was going to be reopened, he sent an e-mail to Rybak's office saying that "such an action would be inappropriate." Stanek wrote that MnDOT, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Navy and Department of Defense also opposed the move.

In Stanek's e-mail, he said he understood the mayor's goal to increase the public's knowledge of what is taking place at the collapse site. Stanek said his primary goal is to maintain the dignity and respect for the families of the missing.

Minneapolis Police Chaplain Jeffrey Stewart, who has been notifying families when bodies are recovered, agreed with Stanek because "it's important the families hear the news from us and not the media."This is what we promised them," he said.

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Kathryn Janicek also said victims' family members told officials they would be disappointed if the bridge was reopened.

Before the reclosing of the bridge Wednesday afternoon, a protocol was in place to remove people from the bridge if a body was going to be removed from the site. Bridge 9 connects the University of Minnesota's West Bank and crosses to the East Bank.

The city is also reviewing daily when it might reopen the 10th Avenue bridge, said the mayor's spokesman, Jeremy Hanson. The most immediate option under consideration is to allow buses, bicyclists and pedestrians back on that bridge, he said.

There is a concern that the bridge's north side doesn't have a safe enough rail for pedestrians, he said. Officials also have to consider whether the 10th Avenue bridge can handle additional traffic detoured from the collapse and how adjacent neighborhoods will be affected, he said.

David Chanen • 612-673-4465

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