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The Minot City Council at its June 17 meeting voted to place the Anne Street Bridge on the city’s list of capital improvement projects.
The pedestrian bridge that connects downtown Minot and Fourth Avenue remains closed because of construction at the bridge’s north end while the council considers how – and if – the bridge should be repaired.
Jay Kleven, a structural engineer, presented information to the council on the bridge’s current state of disrepair. The bridge doesn’t comply with the American Disabilities Act, and handrails must be added if it’s used by the public. Other needed work includes replacing the south ramp, replacing the upper landing, repairing the entire bridge deck, fixing trusses, and upgrading the coating on steel piers.
Kleven said the bridge is structurally sound overall, but needs a lot of repair to make it safe to use again. He estimated the cost for all repairs at between $1.25 million and $1.65 million. Doing the repair work in phases could raise the cost to $1.9 million. Those cost estimates did not include the potential cost if Burlington Northern-Santa Fe raises its tracks in that area, which would require the bridge to be elevated.
“Anything is feasible, so it’s definitely feasible to elevate it,” Kleven said. “It would be very, very challenging, and I would, at this point, my first impression is that it would not be cost feasible. Technically feasible, but not cost feasible.”
Several council members, notably alderman Paul Pitner, expressed concern about spending money on the project when its future isn’t clear, given that BNSF is considering raising their tracks in that area to account for potential future flooding. No one is sure when BNSF might make a decision, so council members didn’t want to dedicate money to the project when there’s so much uncertainty around it.
“Maybe we need to have a clearer picture of what’s going on before we move forward with spending millions of dollars, potentially, on a project like this,” Pitner said.
Council members Shannon Straight and Josh Wolsky have long supported repairing the bridge, and expressed continued concern over having the bridge closed to pedestrian traffic. Straight said he’s concerned that the longer the project sits on the capital improvement list, the greater the risk that the bridge will never be reopened and used again.
“I know there will be people who will call me tomorrow and say ‘It’s absolutely ridiculous that you’re talking about $1.6 million for a pedestrian bridge.’ However, it’s part of the historical significance that makes it unique.”
“I wonder if we should be building anything new when we aren’t willing to maintain what we already have,” Wolsky said. “This bridge has been with this community, I think, going back to 1908 or 1909, and I’ll be very direct in saying I don’t want to see it lost on my watch.”
In the end, the council voted to accept the engineer’s report, and keep the bridge closed. Public Works Director Dan Jonasson said his department will look into ways of making the bridge more secure so residents can’t continue to go around barriers intended to keep people off the bridge.