Delayed project may move ahead this summer
It has been a long time coming, but a more than $4.2 million project that will put two pedestrian tunnels under the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP Rail) tracks at Johnson and Winona streets is on the way.
The project is the result of federal and local dollars and partnerships between Winona State University (WSU), the city of Winona, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) and CP Rail.
Originally slated for construction years ago, before the new WSU dormitories were built, the rail underpass project was delayed for multiple reasons. WSU officials had to secure a number of easements and work within CP Rail's schedule for its portion of the construction work. The university also had to purchase one home and one vacant lot on Belleview Street to make room for the adjacent ramps and stairs leading into the tunnels. Once the dormitory projects began, the tunnels again had to wait for the work to be completed.
Now, design plans are in the hands of Mn/DOT officials for approval, and Trish Bremer, WSU Campus Planner, said the work may begin as early as this summer.
First, CP Rail will construct concrete box culverts under the tracks. Once that work is complete, WSU will further improve the tunnel space and construct the ramps and stairs leading to the tunnels. One tunnel will be added to each street, connected to two sets of stairs and ramps. One tunnel will be fitted at Johnson Street north of the football field, the other will be added at Winona Street in between the dorms, west of what is currently the baseball field on Winona and Sarnia streets.
"Certainly the overall intent of this project is to increase pedestrian safety," explained Bremer. The tunnels are not just for university students, but for the benefit of the entire community, she said.
The project will be paid in part with $3.126 million in federal funds. CP Rail has pitched in $50,000 in work for the tunnels. The final cost of the project exceeds original estimates of $4.2 million, although the Winona Post was unable to confirm the new total before press time Tuesday. WSU will pick up the remainder of the cost after the federal money and CP Rail contribution have been used.
The city of Winona has provided oversight of designs and planning, and Mn/DOT has worked with the university to ensure that plans comply with state design standards.
CP Rail is expected to begin its portion of the work in mid- to late summer. Bremer said, depending on when that phase is complete and how long the construction season lasts, the project could be completed this fall, or sometime next spring.