Safety concerns prompt traffic limits on U bridge

  • Article by: JEFF SHELMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 22, 2008 - 10:49 PM

On the upper deck of the structure that connects the campus' East and West Banks, students and bicycles will be limited to a section 14 feet wide in the middle of the bridge.

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gtscoopAug. 22, 0811:07 PM

If you are going to limit the upper deck of the Washington Avenue bridge to pedestrians and cyclists to the middle section of the bridge deck then limit the (U of M) campus police and other U. full size maintenance vehicles from transiting the upper deck. These bridge repairs should have been done years ago.

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raymarshAug. 23, 08 5:17 AM

I first saw the bridge in 1968 after I got out of the Army. I immediately wondered about the barren appearance and "wasted space" and learned that there were restrictions on the upper deck's use at that time because of design structural defects. It was originally designed so that the upper deck would be lined with kiosks to provide information for and to sell things to pedestrians, including food, as they crossed the bridge. That never happened because of the defects. I'm sure a search of the Minnesota Daily and Star/Tribune during the years 1965-8 would carry stories on the problem.

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rjpaasoAug. 23, 08 6:48 AM

Disappointing to learn that use of the Washington Avenue Bridge will be limited, but think what might make it worse. I've got an idea lets run light rail trains over it. Measure twice cut once on the transit plans please.

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smittyjsAug. 23, 08 9:02 AM

When was the last time you saw a Weigh Station open? The trucking industry defies weight limit restrictions with impunity because the State DOT, County and Cities haven't enforced the law for years. Between using more salt than any other state and over the limit trucks it's a wonder we have not had more failures like the I35. No wonder the roads and bridges are in such disrepair.

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deadpioneerAug. 23, 0810:15 AM

I bike across the bridge every day to get to work. The bridge is already crowded during the school year when the entire thing is open, so I am not looking forward to the start of the school year. I hope they at least mark a temporary lane in the enclosure, and remove one set of the doors on each end to make biking less awkward. And of course, us bikers will have to slow down when warrented, and pay more attention. Also, they recently changed the bike lanes on the west bank by ripping up part of the plaza to add some green areas. Though I applaud the effort, it made the marked bike lanes far more dangerous (sharp turns, "merging" of lanes, etc.) This all makes me wish I hadn't moved to the south/west side of the river after the bridge collapse last year.

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wwallace67Aug. 25, 0810:28 AM

I wonder if this bridge was designed by a U. of M. student, and analyzed using U. of M. software.

Wasn't it U. of M. graduates who declared the 35W bridge safe, multiple times?

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robin37Aug. 25, 0812:26 PM

Fortunately, rjpaaso's comments are not germane: the LRT will run on the lower deck of the Washington Ave bridge, and the structural fixes referred to in the story are only on the upper deck. Other structural work will need to be done to make this bridge (and any other possible crossing, such as Bridge 9) LRT-ready, but this has been budgeted into the Central Corridor project. Biking across this bridge will definitely be less convenient during this construction. I plan to experiment with taking the slightly longer trip across Bridge 9 instead.

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hbkcslickAug. 28, 08 6:26 PM

It's absolutely asinine to run light rail on a 50-year old bridge when 4 better bridges are available upriver. 1. Northern Pacific No. 9 bridge, also old and heavily-used, but benefits from using Dinkytown trench, and was overbuilt. 2. I-35W bridge, brand new, similar route and stations to Washington Avenue, potential for redevelopment in Dinkytown and Marcy Holmes and no need to strengthen the piers. 3. Stone Arch bridge, also overbuilt and could help redevelopment on the East Bank of the Riverfront. 4. Hennepin Avenue bridge, the best of the possible crossings, is overbuilt and could tap into existing and new transit usage in Marcy-Holmes and East Hennepin, and could revitalize the Gateway. Extremely strong bridge. Of course none of these crossings are going to be used because no one will live long enough to see the Washington Avenue bridge fall into disrepair within 30 years, while the future generation will ask their elders why we didn't use any of our perfectly good bridges.

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godllubFeb. 24, 1111:35 PM

The upper structure was added to this bridge after the abutments, piers and bearing were delivered and installed. The main worry for the engineers was the added dead load to the structure. In those years the Highway Dept. used a working stress balanced design, The added dead load unbalances the original design and use some of the safety factors. If the deck has become composite load carrying then when the Central Corridor project may have some problems when they remove the deck for the light rail project this year.

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