Public input meeting on Watertown bridge’s history set for Thursday

The first of several public input meetings relating to the proposed 2014 bridge replacement project in Watertown will be held at Watertown City Hall on Thursday, March 21, at 5:30 p.m.

While another meeting will be held at a later date to discuss issues like alignment and potential intersection redesigns, this meeting will be held solely to discuss impacts to the current bridge, particularly as they relate to the bridge’s historic nature.

Because the current Territorial Street bridge spanning the Crow River is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, state law requires the city to provide an opportunity for the public to comment on possible impacts to the structure, which could range from minor modifications to complete replacement. The city has already submitted a proposal to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would include a complete replacement of the structure if it is approved in its current permitting format.

Ultimately, however, the State Historic Preservation Office will play a big role in determining whether the bridge can be replaced or whether it needs to be rehabilitated. Feedback received during Thursday’s meeting is expected to play major part in that decision.

The current bridge was constructed in 1939 and is one of the few surviving, intact examples of the Minnesota Highway Department design concept for urban trunk highway bridges that were developed in the 1920s. The bridge was constructed during the Great Depression as part of the New Deal.

According to City Administrator Luke Fischer, the bridge, which displays elements of both the Classical Revival and Art Deco styles, is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places for several reasons, including the overall design of the bridge. The bridge also features unique decorative styling, including decorative light posts and a decorative railing, and the idea of bridges with sidewalks was also a new concept for urban areas at the time of its construction.

Thursday’s meeting will be structured as an open comment session for the public, and will not include a formal presentation, although project displays will be available to show the historic components of the bridge and project alternatives related to the river crossing.

However, the meeting will include no discussion of proposed changes to the intersection at Lewis Avenue and Territorial Street at the immediate west end of the bridge. Discussion of those proposals will occur at a later public input session.

Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]