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Whiskey Ditch bridge to be replaced, realigned

ictured is the Whiskey Ditch bridge, set to be replaced next year. The northerly walkway is closed due to unsafe conditions. (Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)1 / 2
Pictured are proposed plans for the Whiskey Ditch bridge replacement. The new bridge, running over three box culverts, would have a better angle onto Park Avenue. (Special to The Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — The city of Worthington hopes to replace the 10th Avenue bridge that runs over Whiskey Ditch and connects to Park Avenue next year.

Helping the cause is a $312,417.50 grant from the the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), which the city obtained Aug. 13.

To pay for the rest of the estimated cost, the city will use approximately $530,772.50 in Municipal State Aid Street Fund (MSAS) money. Worthington gets an allocation of MSAS funds every year from the state and can earmark it for roughly 20 percent of its roads.

The plan is to replace the ancient bridge with three large culverts, which will support the new road and a new pedestrian walkway. The road will be realigned to better match with Park Avenue, eliminating a harsh angle about which drivers have long complained.

“We’ll deflect 10th Avenue a little to the north so we hit Park Avenue at a 60-degree angle, instead of how it is now where it’s really skewed and not very perpendicular at all,” said Dwayne Haffield, city engineer. “This way it will be more perpendicular with the road and with the ditch.”

A new trail will run alongside the south side of the bridge and connect with a sidewalk that crosses Park Avenue. In the future, the city wants to extend the trail further toward Lake Okabena.

Haffield said there won’t be a walkway on the north side of the bridge, as engineers couldn’t make it fit and also be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The current northerly walkway is closed due to unsafe conditions.

The grant comes from MnDOT’s 2018 Local Bridge Replacement Program, which was appropriated funds from the Minnesota Legislature this year.

Haffield said he was surprised Worthington got the grant, given that the program only had $5 million to hand out statewide.

Nonetheless, the project met the state’s requirements. The grant award will allow the city to use extra state-aid road funds for other streets.

“The issue of the last few years is ‘should we use all of our state aid funding on it, or should we continue to wait for availability of bridge bond funds?’” Haffield said.

The bridge became a talking point last summer when Worthington City Council member Mike Harmon cited the bridge as his top priority, saying he wouldn’t vote for a budget without funding for it.

The council ultimately voted to include $991,000 in state-aid funding to replace the bridge in its 2018 budget. Thanks to the grant, the city will no longer need to designate that much.

The city also plans on replacing Centennial Park’s nearby pedestrian bridge, which has been identified as a priority by the council as well. The cost is estimated at around $120,000 and will be paid for using local funds, Haffield said.