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.
The 2013 Legislature backloaded the increases in school aid to Minnesota schools this biennium , and the payoff comes next school year for Minneapolis and other districts.
Initial projections are that Minneapolis can expect 2.5 percent more money for the 2014-2015 school year, measured by general fund revenue. But the news looks much better at the school level, where the district's finance folks project a 5.8 percent increase in money going directly to schools.
Schools will get their budgets on March 14, which starts the process in buildings of determining what positions are safe or not. The preliminary allocations for this year's school budgets last March prompted howls of protest, especially from growing schools in southwest Minneapolis, before several million dollars more was added.
When money that goes to central departments but is spent at the school level is included, the projected increase in money available for school use is 5.4 percent. Finance officials said their goal is to bump that to 8 percent. Some of that will be consumed by yet-to-be-determined wage increases for teachers and other school-level workers, with teacher contract negotiations continuing.
In what may come as a surprise to some, the projected budget next year for the district's central departments is forecast to drop by just over 8 percent. That's despite expected hefty fuel bills and an expected need to boost spending on busing.
The shift in spending from central departments to schools reflects the SHIFT agenda articulated by Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson last May.
Led by a stronger graduation showing by its Indian, black and Latino students, Minneapolis Public Schools posted its second straight year of steady gains in its four-year graduation rate.
What's notable for the district is not simply the overall increase in its graduation rate from 51.8 percent in 2012 to just under 54 percent this year, a magnitude of increase that tracked the statewide increase from 77.5 to 79.5 percent
Rather, what's significant is that much of the growth was posted by Indian students, who jumped from 26.9 percent graduating in four years to 33.7 percent; black students, who rose from 38 to 43.6 percent; and Latino students, whose graduation rate grew from 37 to 41.3 percent.
Meanwhile, Asian students held virtually steady at 68 percent, while white student graduation actually fell slightly to 72.1 percent, a 1.2 percentage point drop.
Still Michael Goar, the district's chief executive office, hailed the gains as a sign that district strategies and more effective teaching are beginning to pay off. He predicted bigger gains for this year's graduating class after a revamping of how high school students regain credits missed earlier and an expansion in district support programs for students. The district is also focusing its new student achievement office on improving results for black male students.
Now, he said, “People believe that we can do it. This is a positive sign. Sometimes I feel like we have a belief gap.”
The news of gains among Indian students is particularly encouraging for the district, given years of trying different approaches to raising the academic standing of the district's lowest-performing racial group. Black student gains are particularly important for the district, given that they represent the largest district's racial-ethnic block of students.
Propelling the gain in black graduation rates were Henry, where black graduation in four years rose from 50.7 percent in 2012 to 68.7 percent in 2013, Southwest, where it rose from 52.2 percent to 78 percent; and Washburn, where the increase went from 53.7 percent to 62.5 percent.
Yet the district was held back in further gains overall by low success in graduating students in more than a dozen alternative schools, where only 15 percent of students graduate in four years. In some ways, it's penalized for taking students not making it in other districts. That's one key difference from St. Paul, which boasts a higher graduation rate About 20 percent of Minneapolis alternative school students arrive from other districts, and about half of those are seniors who have earned few credits, the district said.
Minneapolis has now increased its graduation rate by 5.5 percentage points in the last two years, That's twice the 2.7 percentage gain over the past two years posted by students statewide. But St. Paul recorded an eight percentage point gain over two years to stand at 73.3 percent.
Since 2003, the Minneapolis graduation rate has risen from 39 percent to this year's 54 percent, adjusted for federally mandated changes in methods for calculating that rate.
The Minneapolis results include the district's seven big high schools, a smaller immigrant-focused high school known as Wellstone, and its bevy of much smaller alternative high schools. The graduation rate rose for four of the seven big schools, while two fell and one stayed virtually even.
Washburn (63.6 percent) led the gainers at 10.9 percent points, followed by Henry (77.7 percent) with a 9.3 percentage point gain, then Edison (55.9 percent) with a 4.4 percentage point gain, and Southwest (81.1 percent) with a 1.2 percent gain. North 36.8 percent), which is phasing out one academic program by 2015 while adding another, recorded the sharpest drop at 7.3 percentage points. South (70.2 percent) fell by 4,4 percentage points, and Roosevelt (49 percent) held virtually even.
Among subgroups of students, those with limited English skills increased their graduation rate by 6.3 percentage points to 44.3 percent, special education students gained by 5.6 percentage points to 24.9 percent, and low-income students gained by 1.8 percentage points to 44.2 percent percent.
With its first strategic plan in 20 years already extended by two years and set to expire this year, the Minneapolis school board will hold a listening session Tuesday evening to gather public feedback on a new set of goals.
The session is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. in the cafeteria of Richard Green Central Park Community School, 3416 4th Av. S. Child care for children ages three and over, and translation into Spanish, Hmong and Somali will be provided.
The original five-year plan adopted in 2007 was to expire in 2012, but the board extended it to this year. It set the overarching goal of preparing every student for college by raising expectations and rigor, improving teaching and principals, and opening new schools and revamping those in the lowest quartile.
Under Superintendent Bernadeai Johnson, the district has instituted a teacher evaluation system, higher expectations for principals, and a more structured curriculum.
Yet barely half of the district's class of 2012 finished high school in four years, the new federal yardstick for that measurement.
The district set academic standards in 2007 as part of its first strategic plan in more than 20 years. But it eased them two years ago, after administrators said the earlier goals might make people throw up their hands and call them impossible. They called the revamped goals doable -- and said that districts similar to Minneapolis were achieving them.
Still, the most recent measurements released by the distric tin November showed it met only three of 22 academic targets, although it made progress in more areas than where it regressed. It hit its marks on percentage of students who have passed first-level algebra (84 percent), the percentage of students in carrer and technical education who take an advanced class (59 percent) and the share of entering High 5 prekindergarten graduates who have skills needed for kindergarten (82 percent).
The strategic plan the board plans to adopt later this year is intended to take the district through 2020.
The competition for DFL endorsement for Minneapolis school board seats to be filled in November has accelerated in the past few weeks in the wake of two last-minute pre-caucus dropouts by incumbents not seeking reelection.
Jay Larson, Nelson Inz, Luis Morales and Bridget Sullivan are seeking endorsement for the seat. Morales and Sullivan are the newest in the race. Both are lawyers. He works for the Metropolitan Council, and has the backing of Monserrate. It’s the most competitive so far of three district seats that will be filled for the next four years. Inz is a charter school teacher and Larson a cemetery manager.
Meanwhile, the field of candidates for two city-wide board seats has grown to at least five people, with incumbent Richard Mammen not running. They include incumbent Rebecca Gagnon, first-time candidates Iris Altamirano and Ira Jourdain, plus Doug Mann and Dick Velner, who have run previously without winning.. Another potential candidate, Andrew Minck, was close-mouthed when contacted by the Star Tribune. His online bio lists him as a finance and strategy fellow at Teach For America. The Star Tribune was unable to reach another potential candidate, Nicque Mabrey, who sought appointment last fall to the remainder of the term of the late Hussein Samatar, as did Jourdain..
There’s also still the possibility of an election contest for the local seat in District 3, which Samatar held. That district lies between 35W and the Mississippi River, between Cedar Riverside and a line generally following E. 36th St. Siad Ali announced his candidacy more than a month ago, and Abdulkadir D. Abdalla said he’ll announce at the end of March. Rochester charter school director Abdalla said he’s not seeking DFL endorsement, but Ali, who works on the staff of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, said he is.
There’s been some talk that the number of city-wide candidates could prevent the city DFL convention from reaching one endorsement, much less two. Gagnon ran in 2010 as a little-known candidate relatively new to the city, long on shoe leather and short on money, but was able to win without endorsement. The only city-wide endorsee that year, Richard Mammen, isn’t running again.
A Minck candidacy would raise the possibility of another high-spending race, if the interests who style themselves reformers jump in financially as they did to help elect Josh Reimnitz in 2012. Reimnitz, a TFA alum, drew a record amount of money for a school race, especially considering that he was running in District 4 rather than the whole city. His opponent, Patty Wycoff, drew substantial union financial backing.
In the East Side’s District 1, incumbent Jenny Arneson is still without a challenger.
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