While Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) officials have admitted that there is little room for frills in the budget for the Winona Bridge project, the agency is asking that Winona area residents volunteer as members of a Visual Quality Committee (VQC) to aid in the aesthetics of bridge planning currently under way.
The bridge plan recommended by Mn/DOT includes first constructing a new, two-lane bridge just upstream of the current structure. The concrete box girder style design for the new bridge is the least expensive of the three designs studied, and one that some have rejected as unattractive. Earlier this month, Mn/DOT officials told the Bridge Project Advisory Committee that if residents wanted a more attractive, more expensive option, such as a tied arch bridge, the project would have to wait until additional funds become available.
After the new bridge is completed, traffic will be routed to it, while the current bridge undergoes a lengthy rehabilitation process. Once all of the work is completed, the new bridge will carry motorists from Wisconsin into the city, while the current bridge will be used for traffic headed into Wisconsin. The new bridge is expected to include a 12-foot bike and pedestrian path to handle bicyclists and those on foot headed in either direction.
The bridge option recommended by Mn/DOT must be approved by the Winona City Council, and a council vote and public hearing on the bridge design is expected in August.
Meanwhile, the VQC will meet up to six times in the coming months to help make recommendations on bridge project aesthetics, including bridge railings, traffic barriers, and bridge pier designs. Those interested in volunteering as committee members must contact Mn/DOT project manager Terry Ward by August 2 at 4 p.m. He can be reached by calling 507-286-7688 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mn/DOT officials are hoping to begin construction sometime between July 2014 and March 2015, and may be finished with the entire project by 2020.