MnDOT seeks input on sensitive bridge project to Bayfront
As state officials raise the issue of redoing the Fifth Avenue West bridge, the Duluth Waterfront Collective has something to say about it.
DULUTH — As one vocal group reconsiders what it means to pass through downtown, the Minnesota Department of Transportation will study a key bridge at the heart of competing visions for the city.
MnDOT announced Friday it was hosting an ongoing virtual open house through Feb. 11 to receive feedback on a proposed Fifth Avenue West bridge project.
The bridge over Interstate 35 is one of two major access points from downtown to Canal Park, along with the recently reconstructed Lake Avenue Bridge. Both are in place as overpasses of Interstate 35.
"The goal of this study is to jump start the MnDOT scoping process for a future bridge project on the Fifth Avenue West Bridge over I-35," the project website said in relation to a Friday news release.
In response, the group behind an effort to restore at-grade connectivity between downtown and Canal Park is urging its members in an email to weigh in, it told the News Tribune.
“It shouldn't be an overpass at all — it should be an at-grade roundabout intersection with the adjacent freeway being converted into a parkway with a grade-separated pedestrian path,” the Downtown Waterfront Collective said in its email to its members.
The group’s push to reimagine I-35’s role in Duluth has been featured prominently in the news media locally, including by Minnesota Public Radio this month.
On Wednesday, a meeting of the Metropolitan Interstate Council, which helps organize transportation projects and solutions in Duluth, featured multiple community voices in support of the local group's new approach to downtown mobility.
MnDOT said it will use the open house to identify several possible alternatives and “to gather initial viewpoints on the functionality and shortcomings of the current structure.”
There's benefit in doing the study now, MnDOT said, as it may allow the state to move a future bridge project up in its construction program if additional funding becomes available.
Currently, MnDOT has a Fifth Avenue West bridge "repair" scheduled for 2031, costing between $4.8 million and $6.5 million, according to its 10-year Capital Highway Investment Plan.
In the end, "stakeholder and public input" will be considered into its recommendation, MnDOT said, along with "preliminary engineering and traffic modeling and analysis."
The $200,000 study figures to wrap up by June.
According to the Duluth Waterfront Collective, removing the bridge and bringing passages to grade, "would help 'unbury' the historic Depot, make it possible to bike and walk between the Depot, the DECC and Bayfront Park without crossing any traffic lanes, and allow for easy and direct traffic in and out during events."
The virtual open house and community survey are available to view anytime at mndot.gov/d1/projects/5th-ave-bridge .