Design for new 35W bridge clears hurdle

  • Article by: Steve Brandt
  • Star Tribune
  • September 25, 2007 - 9:40 PM

The state's proposed design for twin Interstate 35W bridges over the Mississippi River won a preliminary blessing on Tuesday from a Minneapolis City Council committee.

The full council is expected to act on the design Oct. 5.

The city's approval comes with a request to the state Department of Transportation to consider some alternatives in its plans.

City approval for a replacement to the bridge that fell Aug. 1 falls under the state municipal consent law.

The Transportation and Public Works Committee vote was 5-1. Robert Lilligren abstained in hopes of getting firmer assurances from the governor's office about design issues.

"The city of Minneapolis has asked for a lot and got a lot," said committee Chairwoman Sandra Colvin Roy.

A key accomplishment achieved by the city was a design capable of handling rail or bus transit. Colvin Roy said the city gained improvements that will serve commuters beyond the city limits.

The proposed twin bridges would be 189 feet wide, with an 8-foot space between them, compared with 108 feet for the collapsed span.

Each bridge would have five lanes, but those would funnel into three through lanes northbound and four through lanes southbound. The northbound freeway starts at four lanes, adds one at Washington Avenue and drops two at University Avenue. The southbound freeway has four lanes, adds one at University and drops one at Washington. The old bridge had eight lanes.

The design features broader inside and outside shoulders. The 14-foot inside shoulders could be converted to light-rail transit in the future. Alternately, bus or multi-passenger vehicles lanes could be accommodated in each direction.

The city asks further study from MnDOT to address a number of issues, including vehicle accidents and pedestrian and bicycle safety at the University northbound exit.

A city staff report said the addition of a second northbound exit-only lane at University will make it harder for those entering at Washington because they will have to cross two lanes of traffic to continue north on 35W.

The city also wants more study on an 80-foot-wide opening under the bridges on the east bank to accommodate one of the current six railroad tracks and the potential connection of Main Street SE with East River Road, along with trails and sidewalks. The city also wants a tunnel for a bike path under the west embankment of the bridges.

State Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau agreed in writing to most of the city's concerns, but council members said they'd like Gov. Tim Pawlenty's concurrence. Pawlenty's office said later he stands behind the agreement.

Colvin Roy said that a separate freeway ramp study begun earlier by the state offers the possibility of lessening backups on Washington from traffic waiting to enter the northbound freeway. The possibility of connecting S. 3rd and 4th Streets directly to north 35W is being studied for feasibility.

"We don't want to see the same situation where people are sitting in gridlock waiting to get on the bridge," she said.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

Steve Brandt •

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