It has been a couple years – years.
That’s how long the City Council has gone around and around about trying to build a little bridge on East Post Road SE over Indian Creek.
Last night, in what is still not entirely clear, the council discussed the latest design of the bridge and, when it came up for air, council members said they broke, 5-4, to build a new two-lane bridge with a 14-foot-wide trail on the upstream side and a 6-foot-wide sidewalk on the downstream side.
The 5-4 vote was in favor of tentatively adding the sidewalk.
It was unclear exactly who was for what. But council members Brian Fagan, Jerry McGrane and Mayor Kay Halloran were clearly against the sidewalk, while council member Monica Vernon said the city doesn’t build bridges every day and so builds bridges for what might come in 30 or more years. All city bridges have walkways on both sides, so why not here? Vernon asked.
Few local projects have generated more citizen interest and more citizen cynicism of City Hall.
Originally, the city’s engineering staff and the city’s transportation consultants designed the bridge as a three-lane one with a middle-turn lane. The engineers said the turn lane was needed for people making turns on Cottage Grove Parkway SE just to the north of the bridge.
An outpouring of citizens, though, wanted no part of a third lane. They came to believe that a third lane, coupled with a wide trail on one side of the new bridge and sidewalk on the other, was all a ruse: City Hall’s real intent was to convert what was built into a four-lane thoroughfare as a prelude to widen all of the pretty, curvy, two-lane East Post Road SE into a four-lane road.
The engineers have vowed no such thing, but the fear lingers.
The new, pending design, which the council will apparently formally vote on in the weeks or months ahead, includes substantial, decorative barriers between the two-lane roadway and trail and sidewalk and also raises the trail a bit above the roadway so the road one day can’t be expanded on to the trail.
In last night’s discussion, the council kind of laughed at itself for yammering away about the bridge design for so long. Along the way, council members have developed something of an affection for staff engineer Ken DeKeyser, who has drawn the short straw on the city’s engineering staff and has had to try to shepherd the project through the public and the council to reality.
“Let’s do it and get it done,” council member McGrane said last night.
Council member Justin Shields said the bridge was an example of the council’s commitment to building something attractive and building something using the approach of “complete.” That is an approach of building streets that takes into account vehicles, bicyclists, pedestrians and aesthetics.
“I think it’s a beautiful bridge,” Shields said.
City Hall interest in replacing the bridge ramped up way back in 2002 after a flash flood on Indian Creek. Neighbors in the Sun Valley Neighborhood, which was flooded that year, pushed City Hall to look at any and all impediments to the flow of water that contributed to the flood. One thought was that the bridge itself could be improved to allow more water to flow under it.