Thursday, June 25, 2009

Washington Avenue Bridge

I have received several requests regarding the Washington Avenue Bridge which I have referenced frequently both here and in my book.

Basically it is a bridge spanning the Mississippi that connects the East and West banks of the U of Minnesota campus. It is just 3/4 miles downstream from the famous 35W bridge that collapsed about 2 years ago.

During my tenure there it was an ugly, minimalist, 1960's architectural piece of crap that only stoned or drunk baby boomers would have found visually pleasing (kind of like listening to The Doors). Since then they painted it and made it look less disgusting.

Originally the interior corridor was supposed to be heated so students could walk to each bank in comfort during the harsh winters. But that would have cost too much and communications professors would have to earn a paltry $65,000 per year instead of the $70,000 they earn now, plus we wouldn't have a new stadium every year for teams that never win championships, so you can see why it was important never to heat the damn thing no matter how much it would have benefited the masses.

The above picture was a picture I took during the summer of 1994. You can see just what a dreary bridge it was.


Anonymous said...

Going back a little farther in history, I believe that the center corridor was not only supposed to be heated, but also contain a moving sidewalk. We can afford them in airports, why not in universities?

Robert Miller said...

I did a little research about this bridge after you posted about it.

I'm sure it's a damned eyesore, but consider this:

- The bridge was designed to be minimalist and utilitarian. Comparing it to an overpass would be more fair than comparing it to other bridges.

- It probably didn't cost much money. Compare that to the billions of dollars we're spending on the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Now, the Bay Bridge is the most heavily used bridge in the country and it needed an earthquake retrofit, but they're adding BIKE LANES at the cost of millions of dollars. Few people are going to bike across the Bay for work each day. The sole purpose of this is to add to the already inflated egos of the faux-endorsement jersey militant bicyclists in the city. They will soon be able to boast about riding from SF up to Berkeley or to the Oakland Hills.

All the fluff and stuff of heated pedestrian walkways and moving sidewalks were removed, probably to save money.

I'd prefer that my government spend the least amount possible on public goods and lose the beauty contest than to have a glorious piece of engineering architeture which was overdue, overbudget, and required a bond issuance, toll, or tax increase.

The Golden Gate Bridge is a marvel of engineering and an architectural wonder, but the value of such things are maintained by not trying to match its opulence everywhere, all the time.