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Minnesota bridge ready for rehab

By Bob Geiger
Dolan Media Newswires

Minneapolis — The historic Franklin Avenue Bridge will start getting some needed attention as part of $79.7 million in public works project spending in Hennepin County’s $1.6 billion budget for 2011.

The seven-member Hennepin County Board has agreed to spend $1 million to hire a consultant to guide reconstruction efforts on the 87-year-old bridge. A 1,054-foot span over the Mississippi River, the Franklin Avenue Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. The concrete arch bridge connects south Minneapolis with southeast Minneapolis.

The total project cost for the work needed on the bridge is estimated now at $20.2 million, according to Hennepin County documents. Jim Grube, Hennepin County engineer, said most of the bridge reconstruction and financing is scheduled for 2014.

During the Franklin Avenue Bridge’s last major overhaul, which started in 1971, the bridge was closed and reconditioned. That resulted in a wider bridge deck that includes two lanes of traffic and sidewalks and is capable of carrying four lanes of traffic.

Grube said a consultant for the upcoming rehab of the Franklin Avenue Bridge, built four years before the Ford Bridge was finished in 1927, will be hired in 2011 to guide the project. The project most likely will lead to a partial closure of the bridge when the project begins in 2014.

The Ford Bridge underwent an overhaul about 10 years ago.

“The Franklin Avenue Bridge is showing some of the same aging that the Ford Bridge did 10 years ago — water seeping down through joints resulting in spalling of concrete and girders,” Grube said. “You’ve got to go in and take care of the spalling and the re-enforcement. When we did the Ford Bridge, we replaced the whole top.

“While I can see various options (for the Franklin Avenue Bridge), I foresee that option.”

But redecking the Franklin Avenue Bridge is not likely to close the span fully, as was needed during the reconditioning in the 1970s. And the $20.2 million estimate for the cost of the project is less than the $40 million redecking and re-enforcement of the Washington Avenue Bridge that recently started as part of the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line project.

Another maintenance project on the county’s 2011 roster of capital improvements is the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center, the county-owned garbage burner known as HERC.

Next year, cranes that hoist garbage from a huge pit to a burner are scheduled to be replaced as part of $4 million in upgrades to HERC.

In addition to the new cranes, HERC also will install new equipment at three cooling towers to reduce steam plumes, said Dave McNary, assistant director of environmental services for the county.

County officials budgeted for replacing the cranes and installing the new cooling tower equipment to reduce the size of the steam plume from the plant.

“They’re 20 years old,” McNary said. “And that’s a critical component at the plant. If the cranes don’t work, the plant doesn’t work.”

McNary said that every year brings some needed maintenance work at HERC. Right now, the county has budgeted $39.1 million for plant upgrades from 2011-2015.

The county’s solid waste enterprise budget, which includes solid waste tipping fees from trash haulers and solid waste management fees from residential and commercial customers, will pay for the $4 million in improvements planned for the HERC in 2011.

Hennepin County wants to keep garbage burning in HERC because it makes money for the county by generating nearly 40 megawatts of electricity.

Some of that energy is used to power HERC equipment, while the remainder is bought by Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy.

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