What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to baird.helgeson@startribune.com.

Northtown rail bridge readied for construction

Posted by: Steve Brandt under People and neighborhoods, Politics and government Updated: February 25, 2014 - 4:09 PM

It looks like northeast Minneapolis is on the verge of getting a long-awaited new bridge.

Here’s a look at the proposed design for the long-planned replacement of the St. Anthony Parkway Bridge over the Northtown Yard.

Construction is expected to start next fall or early 2015 on the new bridge, which has a $30 million project cost, all but $1 million of it funded.  It will be wider than the current span, and the project will include upgrading two nearby streets.

The city has been working since the late 1980s to replace the fracture-critical 1925 bridge that scores only two points on a bridge evaluation index of 100 possible. That’s the worst rating in Hennepin County.  It also has weight restrictions, and even the sidewalk that serves adjoining Park Board bike and walking paths has been restricted.

Public Works representatives described the bridge's engineering to the council as innovative but so far have not responded to further inquiries by the Star Tribune to explain why.

The project is complicated by crossing a railyard of 24 tracks, and the railroad's request that it be limited to two piers, according to Public Works staff.  One of the three spans will be a 305-foot truss that visually echoes the five-truss design that makes the old bridge distinctive.

The location of the bridge on the Grand Rounds parkway system and over the rail yard, both considered eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, complicated the design process.  There were lengthy consultations with federal and state agencies, which combine for about half of the project's funding, and a series of community meetings.   .

The parkway nearby carries several thousand vehicles per day. The new bridge will have a 14-foot traffic lane in each direction, a 14-foot trail space on the south side, and a 10-foot sidewalk on the north side.

The project also includes realignment where California and Main Streets SE connect with the bridge approaches to improve visibility for drivers.  Both streets are to be rebuilt, with California going from an oiled-dirt road without curb or gutter to a modern street.    

The proposed replacement was presented to the City Council in committee Tuesday.

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