Legislators hear citizen testimony about bridge

The State Transit Subdivision and the House Transportation and Transit Policy Subcommittee met on Wednesday to discuss the construction of a new Interstate 35W bridge and hear citizen testimony.

Minnesota Department of Transportation Metro District Engineer Khani Sahebjam told the crowd of 50-60 residents that recovery efforts are over and they expect to rebuild the bridge within a year.

Mayor R.T. Rybak said that it’s more important to build the new bridge correctly than quickly, and he listed several concerns about the design. It’s too early to decide if the bridge should have light rail, he said, but it’s way too early to decide that it never will. He also worried that creating five lanes in each direction would create a bottleneck at the north end, and suggested installing a new access ramp from 4th Street to Interstate 94 to help ease traffic on the Washington Avenue exit.

Locally, Rybak wants to open the 10th Avenue Bridge after making safety improvements, such as raising the railings.

“You are now the second responders,” he said, referring to residents who use public transportation and bike or walk in the city.

Numerous people stood up to share their opinions on the bridge reconstruction with the legislators.

Art Walter of St. Paul took the microphone as a representative from his church coalition. He endorsed the idea of preparing the bridge for light rail and wants the city to respect its own transportation master plan in the redesign process.

A St. Louis Park resident asked the legislators to raise his taxes, saying that public transit is very important.

Another man stood up and expressed concern about using salt on bridges during the winter months. “It’s my understanding that salt is corrosive,” he said.

Kathleen Murphy, a representative from Transit for Liveable Communities said that she doesn’t drive and it’s upsetting that most transportation discussions seem to be about roads and not public transit. LRT is safer and less congested, she insisted.