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Community moves closer to replacing iconic bridge

By Scott Carlson
Dolan Media Newswires

Minneapolis — Since 1922, the Second Avenue bridge has spanned the Rum River in Cambridge, Minn., serving as the icon of that Minnesota community’s park system.

The city’s plans to tear down the nearly 90-year-old structure and replace it with a similarly designed bridge got a big boost last week when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $67 billion transportation bill that includes a $900,000 appropriation for the project.

Cambridge officials said they are scrambling to get construction under way next year for a new Second Avenue bridge before the state of Minnesota in 2013 is scheduled to tear down and rebuild the neighboring Highway 95 bridge, which also spans the Rum River. The cost of the Second Avenue project is estimated at $2.5 million.

Once the Highway 95 bridge is taken out of service, local and out-of-town traffic would be diverted to the Second Avenue bridge, said Dave Carlberg, Cambridge community development director.

But the current Second Avenue bridge cannot handle the strain of an additional 12,000 vehicles per day that would come with the detours from a shutdown of the Highway 95 bridge, he said.

Carlberg said it would be bad in any case to have both bridges out of service at the same time; that would mean 12 to 13 miles of detours for motorists to cross the Rum River.

“People wouldn’t be happy,” he said.

Meanwhile, even if the state of Minnesota wasn’t planning to replace the Highway 95 bridge, the Second Avenue bridge needs a makeover, Cambridge officials said. The structure recently received a sufficiency rating of just under 50, the point at which it became eligible for federal money, Carlberg said.

“The bridge is safe, but it needs to be replaced,” he said.

Cambridge Mayor Marlys Palmer agreed, noting the aging bridge is very narrow and somewhat deficient.
Palmer said city officials have wanted to replace the bridge for the past four or five years. She credited U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., for getting the Cambridge bridge project in the bill passed by the House.

“He (Oberstar) is so good to listen to the real needs of the people,” she said.

The federal fiscal year 2010 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations House appropriations bill — if ultimately signed into law by President Barack Obama — would cover about a third of the cost of the Cambridge bridge project.

Cambridge also expects to receive about $900,000 from the Minnesota 2010 state bridge bonding fund program, Carlberg said. The remaining $700,000 would come from the city with the source of funding yet to be determined, he said.

The new Second Avenue bridge would be slightly wider and allow room for a pedestrian walkway.

“We will keep the same architectural style to keep the look of the 1922 bridge,” Carlberg said.

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