Officials disagree over LRT for new 35W bridge


Public meetings on LRT, bridge reconstruction set for this week

As people look ahead to the future in the wake of the 35W bridge collapse, some have said the design of a new bridge should incorporate Light Rail Transit (LRT), specifically a reconfigured Central Corridor line. With the planning of the new bridge on the fast track — for possible completion in the fall of 2008 — state and Metropolitan Council officials are recommending against including LRT.

Planning for the replacement bridge project has moved along quickly, to the concern of some local residents. The first design of the bridge will be released this afternoon.

Mayor R.T. Rybak has lobbied for the bridge to incorporate LRT, or at least for the governor to investigate the possibility.

However, Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau and Metropolitan Council Chair Peter Bell, in a letter to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, recommend against it and say no further study should be done on the issue, citing a need for a “a quick assessment of the LRT issue… because of the desire to move forward with the I-35W bridge replacement as expeditiously as possible.”

The Met Council and Central Corridor Management Committee will hold a joint meeting on the topic on Wednesday, Aug. 15, at 11:30 a.m. at Metropolitan Council Chambers, 390 N. Robert St. in Downtown St. Paul.

Another open house meeting to discuss plans for rebuilding I-35W bridge willo be held Thursday Aug. 16, 4:30–7:30 p.m. at the Roseville Area High School gymnasium, 1240 West County Road B-2 in Roseville.

The public may also submit online comments to MNDoT here.

See the full list of meetings this week below.

The Central Corridor, now in the planning stages, is currently set to cross the river from the University of Minnesota’s East Bank campus on or near the Washington Avenue bridge, which itself has received new scrutiny in terms of its capacity to carry such an added load.

The letter states that incorporating the line into the design of the new bridge would delay construction by as much as two years, be more costly than keeping the current alignment and decrease ridership due to the loss of East Bank and West Bank stops.

The letter states that federal funds — totaling $250 million — and environmental waivers granted for the I-35W project are contingent on the new bridge “being substantially similar to the bridge being replaced,” and that design and construction costs associated with the rail component would not be eligible for the authorized federal emergency funds.

“It would be less expensive to to reinforce or rebuild the Washington Avenue bridge, or build a stand-along LRT river crossing, than to add an LRT compenent to the 35W bridge,” states the letter.

Public Open House to discuss plans for rebuilding I-35W bridge over the Mississippi
The Roseville Area High School gymnasium
Thursday, Aug. 16, 4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
1240 West County Road B-2Roseville, Minnesota 55113

Mn/DOT will hold additional meetings with state and local officials the week of Aug. 13.

Hennepin County – includes communities along the I-35W corridor
5:30 pm on Wednesday, Aug. 15,
Ridgedale Service Center, 12601 Ridgedale Drive, Minnetonka

Joint Committee: House and Senate Transportation Committees
Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2007; 3 p.m.
Room: 200 State Office Buildi
Chairs: Rep. Bernard Lieder, Sen. Steve Murphy
Agenda: Overview of plan for reconstruction of the I-35W bridge