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  Friday January 30th, 2015    

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Ugly bridge (08/07/2013)
By Frances Edstrom

I am disappointed by the City Council’s response to the horrible bridge design proposed by Mn/DOT to be built next to the current bridge that crosses the Mississippi at Winona.

Winona has a reputation as a beautiful city in a gorgeous setting. The setting is due entirely to the river, which in ancient times, when glaciers to the north of us were melting, eroded the banks and left the bluffs, which rise 500 feet above the present river levels, lending the area much geologic drama.

We who live here should be careful to preserve the beauty of our home. We don’t build up and down the bluff sides, creating walls of houses, as they have done in Marin County, or Los Angeles. We have gone to great lengths to protect our shore land. We are working — we think — on beautifying what used to be a gem of a park at the Levee. We encourage downtown businesses to restore their old brick buildings, rather than covering them up or painting them. We want to preserve our old Victorian neighborhoods. Our universities go above and beyond to make their campuses attractive and welcoming.

So why would we build the equivalent of an ugly front door?

Council members seemed to be really stretching for reasons to approve the box girder design rather than opt for something more attractive. They seem to feel that any delay would be tantamount to murder of its citizens. Paul Double doesn’t want to wait “just because someone wants an eagle at the top of the bridge.” Did anyone other than he mention an eagle?

Pam Eyden admits the ugliness of the box girder, but thinks an arch bridge will kill birds. I wonder if the permit one needs to kill eagles to build a wind farm near the river bothers people? Does the current bridge kill birds?

Al Thurley and George Borzyskowski want to let the engineers “engineer this out.” I wonder what the Taj Mahal would have looked like if it had been designed by an engineer instead of an architect? Borzyskowski also — in response to the complaint that there will be no view of the river upriver from the present bridge because the box girder’s concrete wall will block any view — thinks that people should keep their eyes on the road. Some of us have peripheral vision. Others will be passengers, bikers, or walkers, many of whom will be seeing the Mighty Mississippi at Winona for the first time in their lives.

Michelle Alexander is afraid the bridge will fall down before a new one is built. That isn’t the message we get from the engineers who are responsible for determining such things.

Mark Peterson and Eyden seem to be afraid to cross Mn/DOT for fear of losing the possibility of extending Levee Park all the way to the new bridge. Can’t we have a nice riverfront park as well as an attractive bridge?

I’ve learned valuable lessons from bullies over the years. If you try to placate a bully, the bully doesn’t — as a nice person might — say, “Oh, ok, sorry.” The bully sees you are vulnerable, and kicks you again. Nothing is to be gained by rolling over and accepting an ugly bridge from Mn/DOT except to save that agency the trouble of building Winona a thing of beauty that will last for the next 100 years. It is obvious that Mn/DOT thinks its money is better spent closer to the Twin Cities, or in cities where the state legislators have more clout.

I’m hoping that there will be a big brass plaque on the bridge onto which are cast the names of the people at City Hall who are responsible for it.  


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