Monday, March 24, 2008

Bummer about the bridge, King 

The closed DeSoto bridge sits about 300 yards from my office up the river. It is one of three bridges within about three miles of each other, with a fourth a few miles further up that was just finished connecting St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids. Everyone thought that last bridge was wa-a-a-ay overdue for replacement; the new structure is visually pleasant. But not very busy. While traffic so far has been pretty light due to the holiday (there was a fender bender at 9am this morning on the Veterans Bridge, two blocks north of DeSoto, but it was gone when I crossed it at 9:35), I think tomorrow will be the first real test.

Veterans Bridge was built in its current form in 1971, and was redecked and widened to four lanes in 1996. Traffic was routed for some time to DeSoto. We have thus had experience with having a bridge out. While St. Cloud has grown dramatically in the last ten years, most of the growth is either on the west side of the river anyway, or is up in Sauk Rapids and comes over the new Sauk Rapids bridge or the University bridge (to the south of Desoto -- many old-time Sauk Rapidians I know that come to campus use that bridge instead.) Most of the Sauk Rapids traffic will now come in over the SR bridge, but it then gets caught in a pinch to two lanes in North St. Cloud (between 11th and 15th Sts. North.)

Personal note: Littlest ends her schooling in Sauk Rapids this May; for the last two years that particular area has been our personal issue. The new bridge, as I say, is nice!

The east side of the river would more naturally commute west than the other direction. There are 15,703 on the east side of St. Cloud as opposed to the more than 50,000 living on the west side; the downtown and the shopping areas are mostly congregated to the west. (Data via ZipSkinny, h/t: Carpe Diem.)

Everyone up here is still wondering -- replace or repair? The key point most people should keep in mind is that there are plans to both widen the University bridge (a long story of slow-growth advocates winning a battle and losing a war, but that's another blog post some day) and renovation of Highway 23 through downtown and out about halfway to Crossroads mall at the other end of town. Both of those other projects were due to go in 2010. The desire would be to handle the Desoto/Highway 23 bridge with the road reconstruction, but you don't want TWO bridges out at the same time and you don't want to repair the road and the bridge separately. So when people ask me what's going to happen, I don't know. It makes far more sense to do the DeSoto bridge first, but that means someone has to agree to move forward the road reconstruction or accept the slow build-out of Highway 23.

It's not going to be pleasant no matter what for those who commute from the east side, but the lack of east side development is actually now a blessing. If that side of St. Cloud had developed like the west and south had, this would be a much bigger disaster.

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