Bridge woes

On Friday, Aug. 21, Hennepin County issued a statement, along with University officials, stating the Washington Ave. BridgeâÄôs upper deck has structural deficiencies that would prohibit pedestrian traffic and only allow âÄúlegal weight vehiclesâÄù to travel in the lower deck. Currently, there are fenced enclosures on the inside of the upper-deck that limit pedestrians and bikers to a 14 foot space to navigate to and from the West Bank Campus. While we acknowledge that precaution is necessity for bridge safety âÄî especially considering the Interstate 35W Bridge collapse happened right in the UniversityâÄôs back yard âÄî there shouldnâÄôt be an excuse for stalling on fixing the vein that connects East and West Banks. The culprit that forced the County and UniversityâÄôs decision to move pedestrian traffic to the inside 14 feet was explained in a recent Star Tribune article. According to the article, the decision to limit the upper-deck is due to the bridgeâÄôs main columns being âÄúin the middle,âÄù as stated by Hennepin County Assistant Administrator for Public Works Marthand Nookala. As of about noon yesterday, officials abruptly put up barricades over the outside bike lanes forcing bikers to use the inside 14 feet, along with pedestrians. The County also has installed heavy fencing on the inside of the bridge to make certain pedestrians, and now bikers, will not go outside of the 14 foot space to which they have been assigned to until extra braces are installed to reinforce the pedestrian level, which could take until August 2009 according to the UniversityâÄôs Parking and Transportation Services website. Hennepin County Commissioner and former University graduate student Peter McLaughlin said in an interview, however, that the bridge shouldnâÄôt take a year to repair and acknowledged that the restrictions are a nuisance. Hennepin County is right to close parts of the bridge if they really think that weight on the outer decks present a danger. But we hold McLaughlin to his word that the county is doing all it can to get our bridge back to normal.