Old Cedar Avenue Bridge gets new life in tax bill

11:11 AM, Jun 21, 2013   |    comments
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Old Cedar Avenue Bridge in Bloomington

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- The old Cedar Avenue Bridge has stood in the Minnesota River National Wildlife Refuge since 1920, but it was closed to cars in 1993 and declared off-limits to pedestrians and bikers in 2002.

Now, it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the bridge is poised to make a comeback as a biking and pedestrian bridge thanks to an interesting political trade-off at the State Capitol.

"There's a lot of support for this among the people of Bloomington," Rep. Ann Lenczewski, the DFL lawmaker who has represented a large part of the city for 20 years.

"And we've had two governors down here for rallies at the bridge, Gov. (Tim) Pawlenty in 2008 and Gov. (Mark) Datyon in 2012."

The problem for Lenczewski and the biking enthusiasts who backed the idea was that there wasn't enough support in the legislature.

And, further complicating the political landscape, the project was never at the top of wish list for the city of Bloomington, which now owns the bridge.

The city was more interested in building up the commercial and residential projects in the area known as the South Loop, encompassing a large swath of land east of Highway 77 including the Mall of America.

The city was seeking permission to spend $250 million on public infrastructure for projects such as the Mall of America expansion and the Bloomington Central Station, a mixed used planned development tied to a light rail station east of the Mall.

"I've never been a big fan of using the tax code to give one private business an advantage over other private businesses," Lenczewski, the House Tax Committee chair, told KARE.

So the veteran lawmaker came up with a novel idea that would give the city of Bloomington help with its private development projects, and at the same time take care of the bridge.

The final version of the tax bill, which Lenczewski authored, provided Bloomington with the subsidies needed for the MOA and other commercial projects, but made that spending contingent on renovating the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge.

"With the South Loop, the Mall, Bloomington Central Station and the bridge, those are three things the city wants and three things that will happen because of the tax bill," Schane Rudlang, the Bloomington Port Authority's administrator, told KARE.

"So it's all good news for the city of Bloomington. The city is very pleased with this tax bill."

The projects will be funded by new revenue generated by those commercial projects in Bloomington, rather than coming from taxpayers statewide.

"The bridge project will be done in 2014, and we expect the City Council to OK that. It's not viewed as controversial by the city staff."

Dennis Porter, an avid bridge project supporter and member of the Bloomington Bicycle Alliance, welcomed the news.

"I think it's great. Truthfully it's a historic piece of Bloomington. A historic piece of the Minnesota River valley. as well," Porter said.

"I'm excited to see it rehabbed."

He said the bridge was open to bikers and pedestrians for years after cars stopped using it, but it became structurally unsound.

"This will be an important access point for bicyclists who want to get from the suburbs north of the Minnesota River to the ones south of it in Dakota and Scott counties."

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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