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Bike, pedestrian bridge access

Published (4/10/2009)
By Mike Cook
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Having a transportation system that includes access for both motorized and non-motorized vehicles could require some infrastructure changes.

Sponsored by Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls), HF1705 would require the inclusion of bicycle and pedestrian facilities on certain bridges repaired or replaced using the trunk highway bridge improvement program that was enacted last year. The spans would also need to meet accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The program requires the Transportation Department to identify and prioritize fracture-critical and structurally deficient bridges for repair or replacement.

“We’ve seen an increasing number of bike connections that are actually interrupted by bridges that don’t have these accommodations, as well as pedestrian and ADA issues,” Hornstein said. “This bill will make bridges clearly safer and more accessible.”

Approved April 2 by the House Transportation Finance and Policy Division, it awaits action by the House Finance Committee. A companion, SF1484, sponsored by Sen. D. Scott Dibble (DFL-Mpls), has been incorporated into SF1455, the Senate omnibus transportation policy bill.

“This is one step MnDOT and the state can take to make things safer for everyone,” said Chris Bell, chairman of the advocacy and legislation committee for the American Council of the Blind of Minnesota.

Hornstein said MnDOT already incorporates bicycle and pedestrian facilities in many cases, but he would like this in statute to ensure it will happen with all qualifying bridges.

The requirement applies only to bridges located in a city or that link to a pedestrian path, trail or bikeway. The provisions would not apply if MnDOT determines there is no demand or a “reasonable alternative” crossing is located within one-quarter mile of the bridge.

A fiscal note indicates adding bike/pedestrian accommodations could cost from $500,000 to $6 million per bridge.

Ethan Fawley, transportation connections coordinator with Fresh Energy, noted most bridges have a 50- to 75-year life span. “If we make a mistake now and want to go back and retrofit the bridge later, that becomes a very expensive endeavor.”

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