by Rob Kuznia

Had everything happened as scheduled, both westbound lanes on the Washington Avenue Bridge would now be closed, the eastbound lane would be split in two, and half the bridge would be enclosed in something that officials have likened to a “plastic baggy.”
But the painting of the bridge has been postponed for another year, said Cari Hatcher, public relations director for the University’s Parking and Transportation Services.
Ray Jackson, senior engineer with the facilities and programming division of transportation services, said Hennepin County — the owner of the bridge — should have contacted them by now, but has not.
“Hennepin County hasn’t gotten back to us yet, so we’re sort of reading between the lines,” he said.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation sold the bridge about three years ago; Hennepin County announced this winter it would paint the bridge this spring.
But MnDOT has to approve the plans before painting begins, which has not happened yet, Jackson said. If the plans get approved soon, they will still have to wait until next year. Officials don’t want the lanes to be closed when school starts in September.
This doesn’t mean the bridge won’t be worked on this year. Bruce Palaczyk, project manager for Hennepin County, said when plans get approved, the contractors will have time to replace the corroding crash railing.
“Right now, the railings are old and obsolete, and even if they were new, would not be as safe as the new prospective rail,” he said.
Construction might begin as early as mid-summer, but nothing is certain, he said.
“We still need to solidify these plans with the University. If we don’t discuss this, it might not happen this year,” he said.
The entire project — replacing the rails and painting both sides — will not be completed for at least three years, instead of the proposed two, Jackson said.