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Funding options explored for stadium pedestrian bridge

The Metropolitan Council could build the footings for a $6 million pedestrian bridge between the Downtown East light rail platform and the new Vikings stadium while it pushes the team and stadium backers to contribute money for construction.

Even so, the Met Council on Wednesday authorized an agreement with the team and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority that says the agency would pay for all of the construction and operating costs for the new bridge.

But the deal is far from final.

Several council members urged Metro Transit to continue negotiations with the Vikings and the MSFA for money to build the bridge. At a later date, the board will consider options for constructing the bridge, including just building the footings while other funds are pursued for the full bridge.Before any money is spent, the Met Council would have to approve funding for construction.

Some Met Council members believe the team or the MSFA should pay for the bridge because the need for it is driven by the stadium’s design and a few dozen events per year.

Crossing the light rail tracks at Fourth Street and Chicago Avenue is only “truly dangerous” at a handful of events per year, which means the Vikings should help pay for it, said member Wendy Wulff, who represents southern Dakota County and parts of Scott County. After games, Metro Transit estimates that the average wait time to cross the LRT tracks would be 14 to 16 minutes and pedestrians would have to wait through six passing trains.

“It really isn’t a 365-days-a-year bridge,” Wulff said. “When the barriers go away … people aren’t going to go up and go over a bunch of stairs and across a bridge.”

Wulff put the footings option on the table at Wednesday’s meeting and others agreed.

Metro Transit initially made a verbal agreement to find money for the bridge when the MSFA was in negotiations for the plaza surrounding the light rail station and an underground parking ramp. The transit agency encouraged the authority to pursue the land because of its importance for light rail operations.

Discussions over design options for the bridge, including just the footings, will continue. Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said the agency could get a two-tier bid for the bridge construction that includes the full bridge and the footings and provide a recommendation to the council.

The cost of footings for the bridge is estimated at about $500,000, Lamb said. The Met Council will also consider whether to build the bridge 25 feet or 30 feet wide and how many elevators to add, which may drive the cost up.

As part of the agreement, the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority would contribute a combined $300,000 annually in promotional revenue in exchange for naming rights and other restrictions on advertising on the platform.

As much as many members of the council don’t want to pay for the bridge, their hands might be tied because of the safety risks.

“If I thought that our voting no on this would result in the Vikings paying for the pedestrian bridge, I would vote no…I don’t see that happening,” said Katie Rodriguez, who represents northwest Hennepin County. “If we vote no and we don’t build that bridge and there’s an accident there, then that’s on me. And I can’t go there.”

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