Is safety really the only priority in Phase 1 flood protection?

Bias at the top. I’m a regular user of the Ann Street Bridge. I support the opening proposed by Alderman Straight. And the bridge has been a recent topic here on The Minot Voice. If you want to catch up on the story, here’s everything that’s been published.

The question of a pedestrian opening in the floodwall at the foot of the Ann Street Bridge on 4th Avenue is on tomorrow’s City Council agenda. The proposed opening and the discussion that unfolded around it the last few days has raised significant questions in my mind.

And though these questions relate directly to Phase 1 flood protection designs, the implication of even having to ask these things speaks to much bigger, foundation issues that need to be addressed by all of us as a community and the City of Minot. In other words, these are questions that as City staff, elected officials, and as citizens, we need to confront because they aren’t just about flood protection — they’re about how the City operates as a whole.

Getting on to the Ann Street Bridge opening, it’s a question of priorities

Public Works Director Dan Jonasson and Alderman Schuler, both opponents of the opening, have argued that a second access point at Ann Street poses too much of a risk(skip to 31:21 in the linked video to listen). The gist of the argument is this:

Flood protection’s priority should be the protection of life and property, and a second pedestrian opening at the Ann Street Bridge creates an unneeded point of vulnerability.

First, I couldn’t agree more with the initial premise. Flood protection should be focused foremost on protecting life and property.

It’s the second part of the argument where I have a problem; it’s also where I see some hypocrisy in the arguments of Mr. Jonasson and Alderman Schuler. Let me unpack it after showing you the current design of the sole pedestrian opening below.

If the priority in the current design is life and property, then why the obvious nod to aesthetic?

 

If our highest priority in the current Phase 1 flood protection plan is the protection of life and property, then why did we design the existing pedestrian opening at the proposed Broadway Park with an obvious focus on aesthetic? How can we argue ‘life and property’ and then point at an opening 56-feet wide that includes two 16-foot flanking openings that serve no functional purpose as an example of that priority?

Alderman Straight’s proposal to reduce the flanking openings at the Broadway Park to 8’ instead of 16’ is a good start, but I wonder if it goes far enough. If the priority is ‘life and property,’ then how do the flanking openings serve that interest?

But the real question is this, can project engineers make these openings safe? I assume they can otherwise I doubt they’d include them in the designs. And if they can be made safe, then why can’t we have them where they provide the most suitable access to our existing infrastructure and accommodate the way we all currently move around town?

I apologize for being a contrarian and not just accepting the arguments of our Public Works Director, but I see hypocrisy in the current design, and I can’t unsee it. And that current design is very much at the expense of the way we as citizens currently use the Ann Street Bridge.

And it’s not just that. The current plans were advanced despite direct and publicly offered citizen input that suggested we should be thinking differently. You can read about next right here.

Josh Wolsky

Editor and Publisher of TheMinotVoice, Developer of the #ForMinot Network,  Co-Host of #GoodTalk Minot, Advocate and Friend of the Souris River, Former City Alderman, and clearly -- all things #MakeMinot. Go ahead, don't wait for permission!

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