Though the Metropolitan Council on Wednesday approved a higher budget for a pedestrian bridge linking a light rail station and the Vikings stadium, some members continued to criticize the deal.
The estimated cost of the Downtown East Pedestrian Bridge in Minneapolis has grown a few times, bringing the current price tag to $9.65 million. A construction contract for the bridge was also awarded to St. Paul-based LS Black Constructors during the 12-3 vote.
While Metro Transit says the bridge is needed to ensure safety for stadium visitors, some council members questioned whether the bridge will prevent accidents.
“Originally, I felt this was absolutely necessary for safety reasons,” said council member Jennifer Munt, who voted against the project after previously supporting it. “Now my sense is that human behavior is to take the shortest path between points A and B, particularly after you’ve had a couple drinks at a Vikings game.”
Council member Edward Reynoso, who voted for the project, took another view. “When you look at the amount of people that are going to be crossing after the game [and] some of them may be a little inebriated and don’t make wise decisions sometimes – it’s an accident waiting to happen,” he said.
The Vikings’ share of the cost has irritated members, who say the bridge directly benefits the team by helping fans get to the stadium quickly and safely from the Downtown East light rail transit station.
“Not only is this a bad investment … but I think it’s a really good deal for the Vikings, said council member Gail Dorfman, who voted against the bridge.
In the new deal, the Vikings’ share of the project would be no more than $6 million, up from $3.5 million. The council’s contribution for the bridge would increase to $4 million from $3.5 million.
A sticking point for some council members is the new advertising revenue agreement. The Vikings will get 90 percent of all revenue generated from advertising at the Downtown East station over the next 30 years, or until the Vikings contribution is repaid – an amount well above the 50 percent in earlier agreements.
Annual advertising revenue is estimated to be about $310,000.
Council member Wendy Wulff, who previously supported the bridge, said the new deal does not evenly split the financial risk between the Vikings and the council. The previous deal offered an equal chance for the two parties to reclaim expenses, she said.
“But the way this one is structured, it’s really, really a bad deal for the taxpayers,” said Wulff, who voted against the final agreement.
Dorfman characterized the Vikings’ contribution as a loan, rather than an investment, and raised concerns about whether advertising would recoup the costs to build the bridge.
“Potentially at the end of 30 years, there could still be money owed the Vikings, depending on the advertising revenue that is garnered,” she said. “There will be reconciliation and we could feasibly … have to write a check at that time to the Vikings.”
But Metro Transit, which is under the council’s authority, says the bridge is needed to prevent accidents at the light rail tracks. More than 70 percent of stadium visitors are expected to use the doors close to the tracks before and after games and events, according to Brian Lamb, Metro Transit’s general manager.