Anne Street Bridge closed for future repair

Engineer’s report shows pedestrian bridge needs lots of attention

File photo The Anne Street Bridge in downtown Minot is closed to pedestrian traffic while the city council considers repairs.

Not wanting to scrap a unique piece of Minot’s history, the Minot City Council placed the Anne Street Bridge on a list of future capital improvements Monday.

Repairing the bridge won’t be cheap, and the decision to keep it will become harder if it needs to be elevated to accommodate the raising of the railroad tracks beneath it. However, for now, the council is keeping its options open, and the pedestrian bridge closed.

“It’s no surprise to me that this bridge needs a lot of attention. Anybody who has been over it on a regular basis can see that very plainly,” council member Josh Wolsky said after the council received a report from structural engineer Jay Kleven, Grand Forks.

“I wonder if we should be building anything new when we aren’t willing to maintain what we already have,” Wolsky said. “This bridge has been with this community, I think, going back to 1908 or 1909, and I’ll be very direct in saying I don’t want to see it lost on my watch. I think we have inherited the responsibility to look after these assets, and I want to see us figure out a way to do that. I know that’s not going to be easy.”

The council determined financing wasn’t going to be easy when presented with cost estimates of $1.25 million to $1.65 million to repair the problems that include rotting, loose or cracked wooden elements. Phasing the work to limit the annual cost raises the overall cost to $1.9 million. None of those estimates consider the potential for a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad track raise related to flood protection, which would require the bridge also be elevated.

Wolsky recommended the project be listed in the city’s capital improvements plan as a reminder that work needs to be done, even though there’s uncertainty over cost. City Manager Tom Barry said the project can be added but might not rate very high because of the cost uncertainty.

Council member Shannon Straight said the longer it sits on the improvement plan and isn’t utilized, the more it falls into disarray and the easier for the council to lose interest. He urged the council to ensure the discussion continues.

“Let’s remember the assets that we have that make this community unique because when they go away, they are gone,” he said. “I know they’ll be people who will call me tomorrow and say, ‘It’s absolutely ridiculous that you’re talking about $1.6 million for pedestrian bridge.’ However, it’s part of the historical significance that makes it unique.”

Council member Paul Pitner said it’s prudent to try to preserve history and landmarks if able to do so financially. However, he voiced reservations after seeing photos of the bridge’s condition.

“I wouldn’t let my kids walk on that bridge. I wouldn’t walk on that bridge,” he said. “There’s literally rotting wood holding up the bridge that we’re allowing our children and family members to walk on.”

While supporting keeping bridge repairs on the city’s radar, he said it wouldn’t be common sense to do any construction until it is known whether the bridge will need to be raised and what that will cost.

“Maybe we need to have a clearer picture of what’s going on before we move forward with spending millions of dollars, potentially, on a project like this,” Pitner said.

The council voted 5-1, with Lisa Olson opposed, to add the bridge to the capital improvements project list.

The council also voted unanimously to accept the engineer’s report and close the bridge until repairs are completed that restore it to a safe condition.

The bridge already is closed to pedestrians, although people sometimes are ignoring the barricades. The bridge is closed because of work in the area on the flood protection project. The Public Works Department plans to install a more permanent, secure closure.

Wolsky questioned whether the city might be increasing the hazard by creating a more difficult barrier that people will still try to bypass. He recalled finding an existing closure sign tipped over in the street.

“I took that as a direct comment from somebody who said they want to walk on that bridge,” he said.

“Whatever that message is, it’s poorly said, because they are walking into an area that they should not be, regardless of whether that’s flood control or another major construction zone,” Mayor Shaun Sipma said. “So I would very strongly urge those folks that are doing that to strongly rethink their actions.”

Wolsky also pointed out the need for maintenance to the Sixth Street Bridge from Central Avenue to Eastwood Park.

“Holistically, we need to identify these assets. We need to make sure that we’re looking after them. We’ve got a clear case – with the Anne Street Bridge – of this particular project really looking pretty painful as a result of not providing the timely maintenance that it desperately needed,” he said.

In other business, the council:

– approved an agreement to acquire 210 7th St. NE and 706 4th Ave. NE for flood control for $1.75 million and settle a lawsuit alleging illegal taking, brought by Kenn and Lynette Simensen.

– agreed to allow a developer to remove the median on 36th Avenue North and Broadway, with replacement to occur three years after the first building permit is issued for development in that area. Developer Jim Marsh has stated the median is inhibiting development and agreed to fund the removal and eventual reinstallation.

– received a legislative wrapup report from the city’s special assistant attorney for legislative affairs, Shane Goettle. Goettle reported Minot’s funding as a hub city for oil activity is expected to increase from the current $8 million a biennium to about $12.6 million based on estimated oil activity of 1.4 million barrels a day and a price of around $48 a barrel.