City seeks unity in designing bridge

  • Article by: Rochelle Olson and Jim Foti
  • Star Tribune s t aff w r iters
  • August 16, 2007 - 10:48 PM

Eager to send a message of unity and cooperation, the Minneapolis City Council moved Thursday toward adopting a statement of principles for rebuilding the Interstate 35W bridge.

Mayor R.T. Rybak said the city wants to move "quickly to make sure we speak with one voice."

The council appears likely to easily endorse at its meeting this morning the broad set of principles that encourages the replacement bridge be designed and built to meet current and future transportation needs. The principles include a call to improve vehicle capacity, as well as to incorporate options for future transit improvements, including light rail and bus rapid transit.

The city's role could be pivotal because, under state law, it will be asked to provide "municipal consent" for the bridge layout as submitted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The state wants to complete the span by the end of 2008.

The potential sticking point for the city could be the issue of transit, which the state has said might be difficult to accommodate for both design and funding reasons. Rybak said, "they're listening and taking a hard look at rail transit. I believe we're headed toward a good solution."

At a council gathering Thursday, the talk was about relieving congestion at both ends of the proposed 10-lane bridge. "We don't have a plan yet for what is happening north of the bridge and south of the bridge," Council Member Elizabeth Glidden said.

Council Member Diane Hofstede said she remains concerned about aesthetics for the gateway bridge as well as a memorial to those who died or were injured. She also said she would push for pedestrian and bike options.

Open house

Later Thursday, residents from around the metro area got the chance to share their thoughts about the bridge and ask questions at an open house held by MnDOT. The event was held at Roseville Area High School.

Ben Edwards, an Arden Hills resident who crossed the 35W bridge every day on his way to work in Eden Prairie, said he didn't want Minnesota "to miss an opportunity to do something special with this bridge," including a unique design and transit options. He said that his commute was no picnic before the collapse and isn't much different now, and that he'd be willing to wait for a bridge that did more than increase vehicle capacity.

Jean Smith of Fridley, a retiree who last used the bridge to get to an orchestra concert in Minneapolis on the Friday before the collapse, is hoping for "an interesting design" and said that a light-rail component was important, "especially for those of us who are getting older."

For Wendy Menken of Minneapolis, the open house was her second bridge-related public meeting in two days; the evening before, she and more than 100 other citizens gathered at a park building in southeast Minneapolis to share their concerns with legislators, City Council members, and MnDOT representatives. Menken knows that the bridge is an important regional transportation link, but as someone who lives three blocks from 35W, she is very aware of neighborhood concerns. "A good state, doing the job right would give us time to balance those perspectives," she said.

Kevin Gutknecht, a MnDOT spokesman, said an estimated 250 people attended the open house. Neighborhood organizations interested in meeting with MnDOT representatives are encouraged to call the department. • 612-673-1747 • 612-673-4491

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