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Minneapolis OKs bridge plan, replica gun ordinance

  • Article by: Steve Brandt
  • Star Tribune
  • October 5, 2007 - 9:00 PM

A layout for the new Interstate 35W bridge and limits on carrying fake guns in public won approval Friday during a busy Minneapolis City Council meeting.

The council unanimously gave the city's consent to state plans for rebuilding the bridge that fell on Aug. 1. A key council member said that the city got almost all of what it sought in a new bridge, including space for mass transit.

Council Member Sandra Colvin Roy said the city has "negotiated a package for the future from the shards of what happened on Aug. 1."

That package includes a fifth lane that can be used by light-rail transit, buses or carpoolers, plus an agreement by the state to explore what could become a more streamlined connection substituting for the traffic-clogged Washington Avenue link with the freeway.

The council acted after Gov. Tim Pawlenty committed himself to a package of items sought by the city. Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau backed those earlier, but the council wanted Pawlenty's approval.

They include space for SE. 2nd Street, a potential parkway extension under the north embankment of the bridge and a potential shared-cost bike tunnel through the south embankment. The state also agreed that if a ramp connection between S. 3rd and 4th Streets to north I-35W proves feasible, it will work to fund the project with the city and the county.

Fake firearms

The council also approved an ordinance change intended to get replica guns and airguns off the streets. Such guns had fallen into a gap between state firearm laws and local restrictions.

The change means it will be illegal to carry them in public, except in secure containers or car trunks. The new law contains exceptions designed to allow items such as squirt guns.

Plans for a long-delayed reconstruction of Lyndale Avenue by Hennepin County were given the council's blessing. The section of street between Minnehaha Creek and W. 31st Street was first proposed for widening by the city in 1994. A revolt by several neighborhoods generated citizen-driven plans for a radically different street design to keep traffic from exceeding posted speeds while offering turn lanes to keep traffic moving.

Several council members chastised the Hennepin County Board before the city made plans to move ahead with a new emergency command post in Fridley.

The city had been planning a joint command post with county staff, but got no response to a formal request made last summer that the county commit to the project. The city can't wait any longer for the county because a report on how the city will spend grant funds that will help pay for the facility is due Monday, said Rocco Forte, the city's emergency preparedness director.

"You would think that now more than ever we would be able to work together," said Council Member Paul Ostrow, referring to widely praised cooperation between city and county after the bridge collapsed. County officials have said they'll stick with their Medina command post and piggyback on facilities in any city that has a future disaster.

The council's most contentious issue was a 9-4 vote to issue a demolition permit for Children's Hospitals and Clinics to tear down the Olivet Methodist Church at 724 E. 26th St.

The hospital wants the building site for its expansion, but Council Member Robert Lilligren argued in vain that the church building has sufficient historical and architectural merit to warrant being spared.

Opponents of demolition said they plan to seek on Monday an injunction against demolition.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

Steve Brandt • sbrandt@startribune.com

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