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2008 Spring Issue 7 (May 23, 2008)

Carleton announces plan to replace Minnesota’s most dangerous bridge

May 23, 2008
By Sam Benshoof

Carleton College, along with Waterford Township, has announced a plan for the replacement of the “Iron Bridge,” located over the Cannon River on Canada Avenue in Waterford. The single-lane bridge is number one on the State of Minnesota’s deficient bridge list and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) has placed a high priority on its replacement. The bridge has a rare sufficiency rating of 0.00.

Though currently safe and frequently inspected, the Iron Bridge will not be considered safe much longer.

“We are monitoring it all the time,” Tom Anton, Dakota County design engineer, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “If it gets any worse at all, we’d strongly consider closing it.”

Additionally, the current bridge is not wide enough to accommodate emergency vehicles nor is it rated for ambulance or fire vehicle use.

About 400 cars cross the bridge per day, Dakota County officials have said.The bridge acts as a shortcut between Highways 47 and 19.

Since 2004, members of the College community along with officials in Waterford have discussed the best approach for providing a safe and environmentally responsible crossing of the Cannon River at the site of the bridge. Outside assistance was also solicited by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Due to various engineering and design constraints, a replacement bridge cannot be built on the current site. Waterford Township and representatives from Dakota County have proposed that a new location be slightly upstream on land owned by Carleton and located in the Cowling Arboretum.

After a careful analysis of the proposal, Carleton has agreed to donate a transportation easement to Waterford Township, granting permission to build and maintain the bridge on about two acres of Carleton land. A construction easement will also grant temporary use of additional land to facilitate the building of the bridge.

As part of the new bridge construction, Waterford Township has agreed to develop a formal boat launch for canoe and kayak use. Carleton plans to transfer ownership of the land at the future boat landing area to the DNR for long-term maintenance, if so required by the DNR.

Engineering work on the new bridge site is expected to be complete by July 2008, with construction beginning in the fall of 2008 or in 2009, pending successful permit application and funding availability.The expected cost for the replacement is roughly $1.5 million.

The new bridge will be about 300 feet long, much longer than the current bridge.

As long as it continues to pass safety inspections, the existing Iron Bridge will remain in place to allow for river crossing until the new bridge is completed. Once the new bridge is in place, the Iron Bridge will be closed for public use pending future proposed redevelopment as a pedestrian and bicycle crossing.

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