During spring quarter, the Washington Avenue Bridge will begin its metamorphosis from a drab river crossing into a sprightly maroon and gold traffic snag.
Crews will begin painting the structure in April and continue through August, closing the westbound lanes. All traffic will be directed into the eastbound lanes — making it a two-lane bridge and causing a bottleneck backup. The eastbound lanes will be affected during the summer of 2000.
The bridge was first built in the 1960s and has never been painted.
“Hennepin County said they would paint it and the University was excited by that,” said Ray Jackson, senior engineer with the University planning and programming division.
Although the University does not have an exact start date for the painting, they anticipate mid-April.
The two-year process will leave the bridge with a maroon-and-gold exterior visible to those looking from either side of the Mississippi River.
The county will also paint the underside of the bridge white to reduce glare. At the same time, the University will be working on the pedestrian level of the bridge to plug water leaks.
The University does not expect many problems for pedestrians, but said access may be restricted at times, according to a press release from Parking and Transportation Services.
“It is beyond the time when it should be painted,” he said.
Washington Avenue and the bridge were formerly the property of the Minnesota Department of Transportation. It was at that time the plans were first mapped out.
When ownership shifted to Hennepin County about three years ago, the University asked the county if it planned to carry out the plans.
Since then, the University and the county have been working together to find the best time and means to repaint the bridge.
“(The University) told them it was never a good idea to close down traffic, but doing it during the summer was definitely preferable,” Jackson said.
Along with the Washington Avenue lanes, Pleasant Avenue will also be closed while the westbound lanes are shut down. The exit ramp from Washington Avenue on to East River Road will be closed while the eastbound lanes are closed.
Throughout the first portion of painting, the old paint will be taken off. The paint must be bagged to prevent lead poisoning in the Mississippi River, a time consuming process.