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Stone Arch Bridge repairs fully funded

 : Southwest Journal : JANUARY 18, 2019 UPDATED: JANUARY 21, 2019 – 10:15 AM

Funding has been secured to fully repair and maintain the Stone Arch Bridge, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Repairs on the 136-year -old pedestrian bridge connecting Downtown to Northeast and the University of Minnesota are likely to begin in 2020, MnDOT spokesperson Kevin Gutknecht said.

The repairs, estimated to cost about $15 million, will be paid for using a mix of federal and state funding. The federal government will provide about $12 million via nontraditional transportation alternative funding and the state will pitch in $3 million in matching funds, mostly coming from the rail service improvement program, according to Gutknecht.

“This is a really important project,” Gutknecht said. “…It’s a symbol for the city of Minneapolis.”

MnDOT had requested nearly $13 million for the project from the Legislature in 2018, which would have allowed for the inspection, final design and construction of the bridge. But the project instead received just $1 million, which allowed for the agency to begin planning for the repairs. Gutknecht said that money is included in the $15 million project cost estimates.

Much of the work will be repairing and replacing mortar between the brick and shoring up the foundation of the bridge, Gutknecht said. It’s unknown at this point whether the repairs will require the bridge to close, he said. Work is projected to continue into 2021.

MnDOT typically uses trunk highway funds to pay for capital projects, but the state constitution does not allow it to use those funds for the Stone Arch Bridge repairs. That led the agency to request general-obligation bonds for the project in the past, Gutknecht said. The bridge’s historical purpose, as a railroad bridge, makes it eligible for rail service improvement dollars.

The state bought the bridge from Hennepin County in 1992 and entered into an agreement with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to manage a pedestrian walk and bike path on the bridge’s surface.

At the Jan. 16 Park Board meeting, Commissioner Chris Meyer (District 1) celebrated the news. He thanked Sen. Kari Dziedzic (District 60) and outgoing MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle for work securing the funding.

“By doing that, our other projects won’t be competing with the Stone Arch Bridge repairs,” he said.