It is official: the new Winona Bridge design is a "done deal." Despite generally critical public comments, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) received final approval last week from the Federal Highway Adminstration (FWHA) on bridge design decisions and its weighing of environmental, historic, aesthetic, and economic concerns. The agency also released public comments on the design, which it had previously declined to release.
Some comments criticized Mn/DOT for its choice of a concrete box girder bridge and many questioned Mn/DOT for spending more on rehabilitating the existing bridge than constructing the new one.
One Winonan supported the new bridge design but argued that spending on the old bridge was a waste, saying "The public voice is not heard. This is what the DOT wants, not Winona."
"In my opinion there is little or no historic value in this bridge," Winona architect James K. Carlson agreed.
Some questioned why Winonans should trust Mn/DOT to maintain the new bridge, when, they argued, the existing bridge has been neglected.
Others decried the new bridge type.
"If this vision were to be foisted on a larger city where a bridge has become its most significant historic image, the outcry would be intense," Lynn Nankivil said. "Winona, to its shame, has a history of tearing down its finest buildings led by groups with short-sighted goals of quick 'modernizing.'"
"For the record, the new bridge design will have significant impact on the view of the historic bridge from both directions," wrote Winona County commissioner Greg Olson. "The very reason for the process is being undermined by the powers that be to justify a lesser cost bridge." Olson continued, "This process and design will leave a black eye on our city and will ultimately prove to drive Mn/DOT to change the process in which it dictates bridge design without public input or the full exploration of all options within SHPO and federal historic guidelines."
Mn/DOT is still finalizing design details and has yet to negotiate a final cost-share agreement with the city of Winona.