Plan to replace Northtown rail yard bridge advances

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February 25, 2014 // UPDATED 11:16 am - February 26, 2014
By: Ben Johnson
A rendering of the new St. Anthony Parkway bridge
Touchstone Architecture
Ben Johnson
Needed for more than 20 years, bridge replacement could get final approval by summer

COLUMBIA PARK – A plan to replace the crumbling St. Anthony Parkway bridge spanning Northtown rail yard is finally working its way through the last steps of the city approval process.

The 89-year-old bridge has a sufficiency rating of 2 out of 100 and Minneapolis Public Works has been working to improve its poor condition since the late 1980s.

Since then, $29 million of its $30.1 million estimated cost has been set aside, collected from a mix of federal, state and local sources. The rest of the money could come from the Park Board or Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., which owns Northtown rail yard.

Included in that cost is $1.3 million for the reconstruction Main Street and California Street, two small roads that connect to the base of either side of the bridge. Main Street connects to its east side coming from the north of St. Anthony Parkway, and California Street is an unpaved dirt road that connects to the west side of the bridge coming from the south.

The new bridge will have two 14-foot driving lanes, one eastbound and one westbound, a 14-foot multi-use trail on the south side of the bridge and a 10-foot sidewalk on the north side of the bridge.

The replacement plan was presented to the City Council Transportation and Public Works Committee on Feb. 25 and a public hearing will be held April 15. Construction is anticipated to start this fall or in the spring of 2015.

Park Board President Liz Wielinski, who lives down the street from the bridge and works for the Columbia Park Neighborhood Association, says most people in the neighborhood are happy to see a replacement plan finally move forward.

“Not everybody likes the design, but getting 100 percent agreement is never going to happen,” she said. Previously the Minnesota Historical Society advocated for the bridge to be repaired rather than replaced, because there are few bridges left in the state that share its rustic, industrial design. Although the old bridge will be torn down and replaced, some of it will be saved for display at an overlook on the new bridge’s western side.

Moving forward, the main concern in the neighborhood is how the project will affect traffic.

“Everyone is curious to know what the detours are going to be, how long the project is going to take and how long we’re going to be trapped in our neighborhood without the bridge,” said Wielinski, who added that information is expected at the next public meeting in April. “St. Anthony Parkway is almost like a freeway in the morning and at night. There’s just no better east-west route that doesn’t have a ton of stop signs or stop lights.”

Another railroad bridge reconstruction spanning Central Avenue in Northeast will begin immediately after Art-A-Whirl this May. That project will shut down a mile-long stretch of Central for up to six months, which is expected to cause major traffic issues.