A bridge to where?

Northfield City Council members have been talking a lot about pedestrian access, and the Park and Recreation Advisory Board is working on plans for bike trails and other non-motorized access improvements throughout the city.

That’s apparently why councilors balked Monday at spending what could run as much as $175,000 to replace an old, worn wooden pedestrian bridge connecting the Viking Terrace neighborhood with, well, mostly with the Dairy Queen along Highway 3, north of downtown.

City Engineer Heidi Hamilton said it would take about $20,000 to draw up plans for a new bridge, and ballparked the total cost of a replacement at $175,000. The aging timber bridge once carried vehicles over the ravine cradling the city’s main railroad track, but now is open only to walkers and cyclists. She said the other option is to close the bridge and not replace it, moving pedestrian traffic about 300 feet to the south to a grade level crossing with flashing signals along Fremont Avenue.

Councilors immediately asked whether there were any figures to show how much the bridge is used, whether residents want a new bridge, whether there are other options for siting it that would create broader use and whether it meshes with any bike or pedestrian routes in the area. The bridge now connects directly between Dresden Avenue and the rear of the Dairy Queen site. 

Hamilton said the owner of the Dairy Queen had indicated the bridge was used a lot, but she didn’t have any hard data and hadn’t met with residents or park officials. She noted she was bringing the issue to the council because an engineering report indicated the timber bridge was too old and worn to repair and would need to be dismantled with a couple of years.

"This has been a convenience, now the question is whether it has a purpose,” said councilor Dixon Bond. Councilor Jim Pokorney, who represents the First Ward, where the bridge is, said he wanted to wait until there could be a meeting with neighbors and until the park board could review the trail plans for the area. Councilors agreed to postpone action until more information is available. Hamilton said she is comfortable delaying a decision as long as the matter is addressed in the 2007 construction season.

If you want to get a better idea of where this project is, check out this Google map (where it links Dresden Avenue and Fremont Avenue) and our photo gallery on the bridge.