There’s not a lot of competition, but a 585-foot skyway to be built across Coon Rapids Boulevard from Mercy Hospital will be the longest and costliest enclosed pedestrian bridge in Anoka County.
The $4.5 million, climate-controlled span will carry doctors, patients and supplies between the hospital and a new medical building expected to open across the four-lane road in February.
About the competition: An unscientific survey of county and city officials found a handful of skyways in Anoka County, but only one that now crosses a public street: the 175-foot span over Old Central Avenue between Medtronic buildings in Fridley, County Engineer Doug Fischer said. Mercy’s new skyway will easily be the longest and most expensive, he said.
Although Coon Rapids officials initially touted Mercy’s coming attraction as the first skyway in town, they overlooked one about a mile away at Anoka Ramsey Community College. The college grabbed Coon Rapids honors in January when it opened a 103-foot-long elevated walkway between its renovated music building and a new visual arts center, said spokeswoman Mary Jacobson.
“No, I don’t feel slighted” by the city’s oversight, Jacobson said, chuckling. “I’m sure a lot of people haven’t even seen it yet. … People are welcome to come over and check it out.”
The Mercy skyway will be the first spanning a Coon Rapids street, said Matt Brown, city community development specialist. He said the City Council approved the walkway, which will be 18 feet above the street, this month.
The long and short of them
County Commissioner Jim Kordiak, the board’s senior member, said he couldn’t think of any skyways longer than the planned 585-foot span. He couldn’t think of many shorter, either.
Besides the Medtronic overpass, Kordiak said Columbia Heights has a humble little arch over an alley connecting Northeast Bank to a parking ramp at 40th Street and Central Avenue.
The county government center in Anoka has a few short skyways, including a double-decker connected to a public parking ramp. It also has a 140-foot secure skyway that carries inmates over an alley from the jail to the county courthouse, Kordiak said.
“Skyways are more and more beneficial in this climate of ours,” Kordiak said. “They bring opportunities.”
Northstar commuters are enjoying the opportunity to stay high and dry on skyways over the tracks at train stations in Coon Rapids and Ramsey.
The 200-foot Northstar skyway in Ramsey is the county’s second-longest. That one, costing about $2.5 million, connects station platforms to a public parking ramp and an adjoining apartment building under construction. The walkway could be extended south across Hwy. 10 someday and connect to a bike trail, said City Administrator Kurt Ulrich.
A skyway boom
It turns out that hospitals and the Northstar are leading a skyway mini-building boom.
A third Northstar enclosed pedestrian bridge is to be built for $1.65 million by year’s end at the Anoka station, City Engineer Greg Lee said. It will stretch 58 feet between northbound and southbound platforms.
Unity Hospital in Fridley added its second skyway in 2010 when it opened a second medical office building, said spokeswoman Gloria McConnell. She said the new building connects via a 75-foot skyway across a parking lot to another medical building, which connects to the hospital via a 100-foot skyway.
Mercy Hospital expects to inaugurate its skyway when the new $22 million, four-story medical building opens in February, said Brandi Lunneborg, operations vice president for hospital owner Allina Health System.
Like Unity, Mercy already has two older skyways, although they cross roofs between hospital towers, she said.
“Physicians will be occupying the new building and we will have a surgery center in the building, so they need the access to go back and forth to see patients at hospital,” Lunneborg said. “It’s Minnesota and it’s winter. The docs go back and forth a lot.”
Quick Quiz answer: If you count skyways over roofs, roads, alleys and tracks, our best estimate is that the covered pedestrian bridges of Anoka County number nine, with two more on the way.
Jim Adams • 612-673-7656