Washington Avenue Bridge: Safety concerns for pedestrian bridge and LRT

Pedestrian and bicycle access on the Washington Avenue bridge has been restricted in recent weeks because of safety issues discovered by engineering firm URS in the course of studying how to make the bridge work for light-rail transit (LRT). According to URS, which is conducting an updated study for the Met Council about the Washington Avenue bridge LRT retrofit, buckling capacities of the exterior columns supporting the upper deck are “critically” inadequate. According to Hennepin County, the bridge’s owner, and the Met Council, which is behind the Central Corridor LRT project, both the county and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) were aware of the need to structurally reinforce the pedestrian bridge, and the county was in the process of determining what to do when URS alerted the county to the potential severity of the problem. Restricted access to the bridge — the main pedestrian artery between the University of Minnesota’s East and West banks — has presented problems for people who rely on the bridge’s upper deck. (The lower deck is dedicated solely to vehicular traffic and is not affected by the restrictions.) In mid-September, Hennepin County Transportation Director Jim Grube said access would likely remain limited until at least April 2009, the time needed for repairs to be designed and implemented. Continue Reading

Washington Ave. Bridge restrictions cause congestion

Students who are attempting to navigate the Washington Avenue Bridge while riding their bicycles may want to think again. In a Sept. 11 editorial in the Minnesota Daily, University police Chief Greg Hestness announced that UMPD will begin giving out $80 fines to bicyclists who don’t walk their bikes across the bridge connecting the West and East Bank campuses. University Services has been working directly with UMPD to minimize heavy congestion on the bridge after finding many cyclists weren’t dismounting their bicycles, and a bicyclist injured himself in an accident on the bridge late Tuesday night , Hestness wrote. University Services Communications Director Tim Busse said fining students isn’t something the University or UMPD wants to do, but it’s an issue of safety. Continue Reading