Pedestrian bridge on track for repairs

LYNNHURST — Fixing up the closed pedestrian bridge over Minnehaha Creek has been put on the fast track.

At a May 8 neighborhood meeting, City Council Member Betsy Hodges (13th Ward) brought with her the news that money had been found for a feasibility study, the first step in repairing the bridge.

The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board had closed the 230-foot, 78-year-old structure by Bryant Ave. in early April after neighborhood residents raised concerns about its stability. At an April 29 public information meeting, members of the city’s bridge department told about 50 neighborhood residents that repairing the structure would cost at least $200,000. It would be cheaper to simply take down the bridge: $20,000.

But, as Hodges reiterated at the May 8 meeting, “It’s no one’s intention to tear the bridge down.”

Park Commissioner Bob Fine said the neighborhood had made it clear they neither wanted to remove the bridge nor replace it with a new structure — they wanted to hang onto the current bridge’s historical value.

“We’re basically looking at one option,” Fine said.

The Park Board, however, doesn’t have the money to pay for anything involving the bridge, he said. That didn’t stop them from looking into other avenues; by May 8, money was secured for a feasibility study.

Hodges said it would come from the city’s Public Works department, which she said is interested in having the bridge return to use before it replaces another nearby pedestrian bridge in 2010.

One question that remains is where money will come from for the $200,000-plus repair. Hodges said one route that could be taken is to get the bridge a historical designation, which could open up funding. Members of the Lynnhurst Neighborhood Association said they would try to get the community as involved as possible.

While planning their upcoming summer festival, association members said they’d like to make the bridge a central focus. “This can bring the neighborhood back together,” treasurer Leslie Schuman said.

Meanwhile, welders recently put up metal guards and detour signs at each end of the bridge to keep people off. It had been blocked off with plywood.