U to go over Washington Ave. Bridge design options

Hennepin County is developing design options for repairs to the Washington Avenue Bridge, and will present those options to the University this winter. At that time, representatives from Hennepin County, the Minnesota Department of Transportation , the Central Corridor office and the University will review three design options to address the problems on the bridge, Vice President for University Services Kathleen OâÄôBrien said. âÄúWe are at the point now where we know what is wrong, and options are being designed to address the issues,âÄù she said. OâÄôBrien said the options will address improving the structural support system for the upper level of the bridge. Work is being done as quickly as possible, she said, and construction is planned to begin and end this spring. While the University has maintained the pedestrian level of the bridge for years, Hennepin County owns the entire bridge. The lower level will need to be strengthened for the Central Corridor light rail line, OâÄôBrien said, but it is currently safe for legal weight vehicles to use. Construction done on the lower level will be separate from construction on the pedestrian level. The estimated cost for the repairs to the vehicular level is $40 million, she said. Officials donâÄôt yet know how much it will cost to repair the pedestrian level, but Hennepin County will foot the bill, she said. Bikers are prohibited from using the vehicular level of the bridge because it wasnâÄôt designed for bicycle usage, OâÄôBrien said. âÄúThe guard rails on the vehicular level of the bridge are just not high enough for bikers, and that is unsafe,âÄù she said. Marthand Nookala, assistant county administrator for public works at Hennepin County, said it will be at least two months before any design options will be presented. âÄúThe consultants are currently meeting, they will pick design options, and then do a detailed report,âÄù he said. Peter McLaughlin, Hennepin County Commissioner , said there has to be review of the options and a public bidding process before any decisions can be finalized. He added that MnDOT ultimately has to approve the design before work can begin. âÄúThere have been tougher design issues, but we are looking into the options and what will be cost effective,âÄù he said. Portions of the upper level of the pedestrian deck were closed after an Aug. 21 report issued by an engineering firm showed safety issues. The report showed that if the pedestrian deck was fully loaded with people, the columns supporting the deck might not be able to support the weight. There were also issues with how the columns are connected.