Transportation Commission members

From: Steve Timmer Date: October 28, 2013 Members of the Commission: Last Thursday at the Transportation Commission meeting, the proposal to raise the bridge deck on 54th Street three feet was discussed. Few people, me included, have heretofore focused on the consequences of doing that, although I’m told that some mention of it as an “option” was made by the designers earlier. It escaped me. This proposal would put a massive structure (especially if it’s a roman arch bridge of the type shown to the Commission) over the creek, a genuine blot on the little creek valley between Minnehaha and Brookview Avenues. It would tower over the area. I was curious to see what such a bridge might look like, so my neighbor Mark Epple and I went out with a couple of yardsticks to see. These are photographs we made.

Because the scene was seriously backlit, it is difficult to tell in this photo, but Mark is standing on the bridge deck with the yardsticks, one on top of their other, representing the three foot deck raising and an approximation of a knee wall on the bridge deck. A knee wall would probably be more than three feet tall. But the photo does provide a sense of scale and shows where Mark is on the bridge. -1-

In this photo, you can see better what raising the top of the bridge six feet would look like. Again, the actual knee wall would probably be taller than the three feet approximated. For both of these photos, I was standing on the east bank on the concrete and stone “M&M cookie” abutment. The camera was at eye level. From the creek level itself, the bridge would appear dramatically taller.

In the photograph above, Mark is kneeling at the east end of the bridge. I am about in the middle of the bridge. The camera is fixed with the lens axis height at three feet, the same as the top of the yardstick. So, we have a crude surveyor’s transit. If we assume that the bridge deck is level, and it seems to be, everything above the top of the yardstick is above the grade of the proposed bridge, and everything under it is below that grade, including the terminus of Minnehaha Avenue. There would have to be substantial modification of the grade of the approach to the bridge, and to Minnehaha Avenue, if the proposed bridge is built.


This is similar to the prior photograph, only this one looks west. Again, everything above the end of the yardstick is above the proposed bridge deck grade, and below it is below. You can see that substantial modification of this approach to the bridge would also be required. Moreover, since the creek isn’t going anywhere, it would also create a steeper embankment, making it difficult or impossible to look at the creek as you drove by, or rode by on your bicycle, and perhaps creating a safety hazard for pedestrians on the new sidewalk as well. Would it require a guardrail?

In this last photograph, the two yardsticks are again end-to-end to approximate the top of a knee wall on the side of the bridge. And, at the risk of repeating myself, an actual knee wall would probably be higher than this. I am not a surveyor, and our instruments are crude, but it appears to me that the top of a three foot knee wall would be at about the grade of the terminus of Park Place, at least as it currently exists. -3-

I’ll be direct. I think this is an outrageous bridge. It would be completely out of proportion to the creek area where it would be situated; it is an assault on the creek and environs, and on the neighborhood. It is “rustic” all right, if you consider the Roman Empire rustic. This bridge would not be in the little creek valley so much as above it. It is also clear why the designers want to do this. By putting the bridge on a pedestal, the designers want to make the bridge grade higher than the surrounding area in an attempt to make the proposed settling ponds work. The ponds have to work in order to justify more impervious surface. But there wasn’t anything said about that, or the scale of the proposed bridge, in the presentation to the Commission. (Although to be fair: the Council chambers are a difficult place for me to hear; it is possible that brief mention was made in passing and I missed it, but I don’t think so.) At all events, the designers did not present the Transportation Commission with elevation drawings, or any in situ renderings, of the bridge to give anyone a sense of the scale of the proposed bridge. They did not ever do that with the “stakeholders,” either. Clearly, this has left everyone with a misleading impression. I am dismayed about it, and I doubt that I am alone. All of the “stakeholder input” about the bridge is useless, because it was based on an inadequate representation of what’s afoot. I think that the bridge type and location ought to be re-presented to the public for comment. It would be possible, of course, to construct – at whatever elevation – a rustic slab bridge that had stone facing and stone posts supporting simple railings. This would be much cheaper and, in my humble opinion, much better looking. Thanks, Steve


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