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People walk Thursday afternoon through the Northwest Passage, the section of skywalk that goes over I-35 connecting downtown to the DECC. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Local view: Skywalk stink could be dangerous

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Members of the downtown Duluth workforce who park at the DECC and other Duluthians who frequent the skywalks are no strangers to the curious odors emanating from the skywalk bridge over Interstate 35, the so-called “Northwest Passage.” Rumors and hypotheses circulate about the causes of the peculiar smells: Mold spores? Liquefied pigeon droppings? The many garbage bins and buckets strategically placed to catch ceiling leaks but that fail to do so? The people who use the skywalk as a bathroom (I personally have seen two

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No. 2s in the skywalk bridge while working downtown)?

The workforce now has been informed that the plan to tear down and rebuild our beloved walkway to heaven have been pushed out (yet again) to 2015. What is this now, the third, fourth or fifth time the renovation has been pushed out?

So, OK, we will have to endure yet another summer of steamy, suffocating stink as we plod between Michigan Street and Railroad Street. We’ve done it before and we can do it again.

However, on Monday at midday, the keepers of the skywalk decided, no doubt because the passage isn’t to be torn down just yet, now would be a perfect time to do some repair work. In so doing, the skywalk gods added insult to injury by using some type of cement patch with a chemical smell that trumps all other skywalk stinks. It was comparable to the odor of a perm at the hair salon or epoxy and paint thinner. Whatever this chemical was, its container no doubt boasted warnings to use in well-ventilated areas and perhaps even recommended wearing masks while in its presence.

The opportunity to read such warnings and recommendations wasn’t extended to all the Duluthians who use the skywalk bridge to enjoy a brisk stroll during their lunch hours to get their heart rate up and to fill their lungs with oxygen or to those leaving or returning to work. We were simply accosted by this chemical and left feeling anxious and concerned about what we were breathing and what it was doing to our lungs and bodies. A new mother, I found myself particularly concerned for pregnant women and people with health issues who have no choice but to use the skywalk bridge to get to and from work or to and from wherever they are heading.

I will put up with the steamy pigeon funk and even the occasional skywalk vomit; but I am really not OK with being subjected to unknown chemicals and unknown warning labels in a seemingly unventilated tunnel. My request is that if a chemical is to be used again in the skywalk, a sheet be posted explaining what the chemical is and what the warning label has to say if anything.

In the meantime, if you see a young lady walking briskly over the skywalk bridge with her nose stuck down in her jacket, that’s me — and this stinks.

Stephanie Sharrow of Duluth is a home loan processor at a downtown bank. She parks for work at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

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