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Columbia Heights is getting a new $2.6 million pedestrian bridge that students and others will use to cross over busy Central Avenue -- at a cost to city taxpayers of about $24,500.

Sound like a deal?

"I think so," said Mayor Gary Peterson.

Stimulus and other federal funds will cover about $2.1 million of the cost for the bridge at 49th Avenue, said City Engineer Kevin Hansen. State road funds will pay for $456,000. The 140-foot bridge, which will replace a 39-year-old span, will carry students across the four-lane artery to four public schools on 49th Avenue within a few blocks of Central.

The City Council voted 4 to 1 Monday to approve a construction bid by C.S. McCrossan of Maple Grove and a construction engineering contract.

The dissenting vote was cast by Council Member Bruce Nawrocki. He said the city's limited state road aid could be better used on other road work and not a state-owned bridge.

"It's a MnDOT bridge; they ought to be paying for it," Nawrocki said.

"I don't think the [current] bridge needs replacement," he added. "It needs a coat of paint."

He said he voted for that bridge when it was built in 1971 after a child was killed in the intersection.

Work begins in early April on the burgundy-colored span, Hansen said. The 10-foot-wide deck will connect to ramps for bikes and wheelchairs. Upcast lighting at night will highlight ramps and limestone-clad piers.

"It will be an aesthetic feature in our city; this [old] one certainly isn't,'' Peterson said.

He noted that some residents think the old bridge works well enough, but many of them don't use it, and the steps that lead to it stop people in wheelchairs.

At Monday's meeting, the council approved a $2,035,000 million construction bid by McCrossen, which is about 18 percent below design estimates, Hansen said.

He offered a breakdown of project costs:

• $1.9 million in construction costs will be paid with stimulus funds.

• A $230,000 construction engineering contract with Kimley Horn & Associates, of St. Paul, will be covered by a federal transportation preservation grant.

• $456,000 in state road aid will cover other costs, including design engineering work, lighting, demolition and additional land for the ramps.

• $24,480 to relocate sewer and utilities will come from the city's sewer construction fund.

Jim Adams • 612-673-7658