Council hears pedestrian bridge update

By Paul Downer
Community Editor

By Paul Downer

Community Editor

Construction of a pedestrian bridge over Highway 212 in Norwood Young America doesn’t appear likely to take place anytime soon, but the city council is not entirely giving up on the idea either.

Council members heard an update on the potential project during their only meeting of the month on July 9. A report from city engineer Jake Saulsbury summarized the city’s attempts to receive funding for what is now estimated to be a $1.85 million project since the potential of construction of a bridge was originally discussed in 2006.

Five attempts to secure grant funding were made between September of 2007 and August of 2011, but none of those attempts were successful. In the latest grant application to the Met Council for $1 million in funding, the project was scored 46th out of about 50 applicants.

"That gives you an idea of where we’re ranking with this project even though we all think it’s very important for our community," City Administrator Tom Simmons told the council. "We are continuing to put in for various grants as they become available, but I think I’ve told you this in the past, we don’t hold a lot of hope out for getting grant money for that project."

After the latest grant application failed the city was informed by the Met Council that there are several weaknesses in the project’s application. First, the project is not taking advantage of a time sensitive opportunity such as connection with another project.

Second, due to relatively small population and a rural setting, the project has a hard time gaining priority over those proposed in more urban/suburban settings. In addition, the bridge would not create any kind of regional connection outside of the city and is not related to any trail networks.

Third, the project has no scenic or historic components, and fourth, it doesn’t replace automobile trips or connect to a transit center.

Finally, there is the issue of maturity. The project is not ready for actual design since many preliminary steps have not been completed, such as environmental reviews, easement acquisition, preliminary design and financing, etc.

Options for the council to consider going forward include pursuing a Safe Routes to School grant – which likely would only cover a relatively small portion of the project cost – and continue to monitor other grant opportunities; to work on a loan application through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Facilities program, which aids small cities unable to obtain a conventional bond; or to postpone the project until Highway 212 is modified to remove at-grade road crossings, which is likely a minimum of 15 years away.

In other business, the council: