Above: The SE. 5th Street bicycle and pedestrian bridge (courtesy Chris Lautenschlager)
One of the busiest bicycle and pedestrian bridges in Minneapolis would be widened and illuminated under a plan being pushed by a University of Minnesota-area neighborhood.
The bridge over Interstate 35W at SE. 5th Street connects the university with the more residential streets of the Marcy Holmes neighborhood. About 1,030 bicyclists and 840 walkers cross it every day, partly because it is flanked by dedicated bike lanes.
Replacing the 1971 bridge with a better structure is among the top priorities of the Marcy Holmes neighborhood board, said neighborhood spokesman Chris Lautenschlager.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation appears to agree that an improved bridge is needed. The department recently applied for $2 million in federal funds to replace the bridge, since they only have enough money to repair the existing one. The total project would cost $2.6 million.
The department noted in a report that its eight-foot width is insufficient for such a high-traffic bridge. And because it was built before the adoption of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the slopes are too steep.
Above: A ramp to the bridge (MnDOT)
The proposed project would replace it with a 14-foot bridge, featuring lighting and "aesthetic enhancements," according to MnDOT's federal funding submission. A MnDOT spokesman, Nick Carpenter, said a decision on funding won't be known until mid-June.
"This heavily-used connection helps get students to class, commuters to their jobs, and has the potential to bridge a divide between the portions of our neighborhood located on opposite sides of the highway," neighborhood president Jan Morse wrote to MnDOT commissioner Charlie Zelle late last month.
Morse wrote they would prefer not having the bridge spill walkers and bikers directly onto sidewalks on either side, as currently envisioned by MnDOT, since it is hazardous.
It's not the only bike and pedestrian bridge in Minneapolis that could get an overhaul. The city also applied for federal funds to expand the width of the 40th Street Bridge over 35W from 8 feet to 12 feet.
That bridge sees just 250 bikers per day and 270 pedestrians, according to the city's 2014 count.