In this week's city council agenda is a letter from Mayor Jerry Miller to Nelrae Succio of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, an attempt to influence plans for the new Interstate bridge scheduled to replace the current one some time between 2017 and 2023. Attempting to influence MnDOT is a thing easier said than done, so the Mayor is to be commended for getting an early start.
Aside from urging MnDOT to leave us plenty of room for healthful bicycling and walking over the new bridge, the letter is mostly a plea that the state refrain from rerouting Highway 43 straight from the foot of the new bridge directly through town and across Lake Winona to Highway 61 on Huff Street. This, argues Miller, will harass WSU pedestrians at the campus, perhaps necessitate the widening of Huff to four lanes where property will be difficult to acquire, and create environmental problems with Lake Winona. (Here, it is tempting to recall that Huff Street going across the Lake was not so many years ago narrowed from four lanes to two, much against the wisdom of a certain editorialist; but leave that to one side for now.)
Mayor Miller makes good points against the rerouting of Highway 43 along Huff Street. Unfortunately, it now proceeds across Hwy. 61 down Mankato Avenue to Sarnia, where there is much and increasing congestion. (A lot of the time even now, it is almost impossible to turn left onto Mankato from Sarnia, or vice-versa.) Anyone who has much experience watching MnDOT operate can predict that the Huff Street designation will surely appeal to the department. Given the success rate local governments have experienced influencing MnDOT, Winona may be stuck with the Huff Street rerouting of Hwy. 43 whether we like it or not.
In the meantime, something that ought to be watched carefully is where the new bridge will light down in downtown Winona. The new bridge will replace the old; therefore, the current location at Winona Street will likely not be an option. Since Johnson is blocked by the Winona County buildings, that would probably make Huff Street the best option. Hwy. 43 could still turn left onto 4th Street and proceed to Main Street as it does now, but heading straight on Huff will have a powerful appeal to the bureaucratic mentality.