The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 18, 2014

Dodd Ford bridge deal is a win-win

The Mankato Free Press

---- — Thumbs up to the county residents and government officials who came to a reasonable compromise to save the historic Dodd Ford bridge near Amboy.

For years Amboy area residents have been working to save the bridge from demolition. The bridge has been closed for decades to heavy traffic and completely closed five years ago. It was considered “fracture critical,” meaning if one part failed, the entire bridge would likely collapse.

Blue Earth County had originally planned to demolish the bridge and construct a new one, but local preservationists fought that effort and began to solicit support for preserving the historical structure. They were able to eventually get it listed on the National Register of Historical places and garnered support from the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, a group that put the bridge on its top 10 most endangered historical structures list.

While the county was willing to consider preserving the bridge, the cost and methods were barriers. But then County Engineer Al Forsberg saw a similar old bridge in Minneapolis that was supported by a new concrete and steel bridge deck underneath. That is the idea that will make the Dodd Ford bridge useable again while keeping its historic structure in place.

The Blue Earth County Board approved a final allocation of $130,000 for the $1.3 million project after the preservation group was turned down for a state grant of $170,000. Much of the funding will come from the state.

The county and the Amboy residents have come to a reasonable compromise on this project and will preserve one of the most historic bridges in Minnesota. It will serve residents and farmers in the area because it will keep an important transportation route open in rural Blue Earth County.

It’s great to see people coming together to preserve the bridge and serve public transportation needs at the same time.

Dayton commitment on bonding laudable

Thumbs up to Gov. Mark Dayton’s inclusion of several major projects in the Mankato area in his proposed bonding list.

The governor’s wish list for state-funded construction projects includes $14.5 million for the Mankato Verizon Wireless Center expansion and $64 million at the Treatment Center in St. Peter.

The need for upgrades at the treatment center have been a high priority for policy makers across the state. And the civic center expansion has had a tumultuous history, being included in bonding bills several times only to be cut before the final bill was signed.

Dayton also is asking for $7.4 million for South Central College to consolidate its agricultural, engineering and health care programs. He said he wanted to prioritize science and technology improvements because he’s heard so much about jobs being unfilled for lack of skilled applicants.

MSU officials weren’t as happy after the governor announced his list as it did not include a new clinical science building.

Local officials know they can’t be confident the area projects will make it through to the final bonding bills in the Legislature. Republicans are calling for a borrowing bill smaller than Dayton’s $986 million request. But having the projects gaining the backing of the governor certainly helps their chances.

Story helps raise awareness on health

Thumbs up to Jonathan and Ginger Zierdt for sharing their very personal story of their fight against Jonathan’s cancer through a series of news articles.

As president and CEO of Greater Mankato Growth, Zierdt, has been a public figure in Mankato for a number of years. Now he is publicly sharing his battle with disease to help educate men about the value of being serious about their health. A young and fit man at age 47, Zierdt wants to show men that listening to your doctor is important and paying attention to your body is key.

Zierdt’s upbeat attitude in everyday life now extends to how he is managing his own health crisis. His and his wife’s generosity in sharing their journey with the public through The Free Press series is a valuable tool to raise awareness not only about men’s health, but about the richness of humanity.