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Who is representing Winona about the new bridge? (06/01/2008)
By John Edstrom

Representatives of the Minnesota Department of Transportation came to town recently and, as usual, departed only after casually dropping hints of various blood-curdling possibilities. Thanks to the new gas tax foisted upon us by the DFL up in St.Paul - (better hope there won't be a plague if you don't want to see a coffin tax) - we will probably be getting a new bridge in 2015 rather than a date as late as 2023. Thus we will have to face a thorny thicket of problems sooner rather than later.

Nelrae Succio, MnDOT District Engineer, admitted that MnDOT has a poor track record in trying to reroute bridges, resulting in various lawsuits; it was made clear that the new bridge was not likely to be located very far from the old, and that there might be no way to get back and forth between Minnesota and Wisconsin during construction. No one at the meeting seemed terribly concerned about the chaos which would result from that lack. And we were worried that MnDOT might re-route Hwy 43 down Huff Street from Hwy 61?

Representatives of the county, (Comissioners Jim Pomeroy and Marcia Ward and County Administrator Bob Reinhart were there, among others), made it clear that they were planning to expand their present campus situated between Johnson and Winona streets - a new bridge could not be routed there.

City Manager Eric Sorensen, representing the city of Winona, stated that the Tri-Mac location was sacrosanct, as its "total renovation" in the city's comprehensive plan was "the dream...probably the major dream." This comes as something of a surprise. The only dream previously shared with the public was of an empty spot where the Steamer Wilkie replica now stands. The Post will pass along further details when they become available.

The city has grave reservations about the new bridge lighting down on either Huff or Main Street, so none of the easy possibilities is without major drawbacks; yet not a single elected city representative was in attendance. If that makes you indignant, so did it the various city councilors who claim to a man/woman that they were uninformed of it. Sorensen claimed Mayor Miller called the meeting; Miller said he was unsure who did. Sorensen later called our reporter back and said it was, in fact, MnDOT that called the meeting.

This much is certain. There probably is no issue of greater importance to Winona's downtown, in fact, all Winona, than the disposition and location of the new Interstate Bridge. It is crucial that Winona has input on the subject from our elected officials, not just city hall employees who do not answer to the voters.



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