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Andrea Langworthy's column: A snowy ride down memory lane

As I scanned the pages of the big city newspaper last week, the words “Xerxes Avenue Bridge” jumped out at me. In a four-paragraph clip titled “The Drive,” Tim Harlow wrote about two projects that would affect traffic in Edina. The one that interested me involves my shortcut bridge.

I am reminded of that Xerxes Avenue bridge whenever a major snowstorm hits our state early. When that happens, someone always brings up the Halloween blizzard of 1991 and wants to know if I remember that fateful Thursday.

It snowed for days. We were advised to stay off the roads. My father was in the hospital in Edina, though, so I had to ignore the warnings. Cedar Avenue was a rutted, slippery mess. I bumped and slid my way north wondering about the condition of the Crosstown Highway.

Dad lived in a high-rise apartment building a few blocks from the hospital. I probably could have made the trip blindfolded but that day my eyes were wide open. When I finally reached the Xerxes exit, I exhaled and relaxed my grip on the steering wheel.

I turned left off the ramp, took the bridge across the highway, made a right turn on Heritage Drive and a left on Barrie — my shortcut to the hospital that meant I wouldn’t be stuck in the snarl of cars that, snow or no snow, was a sure thing on France Avenue.

Every day for a week, I drove back and forth via the same route to be with Dad. And once again, the following week, when my siblings and I met with our stepmother to finalize funeral plans at the apartment she had shared with our father.

I couldn’t help but remember those drives and wonder if the bridge would be gone forever or replaced by a new structure. Harlow didn’t say but he provided a link inviting readers to read the rest of the blog online. I couldn’t find what I needed so I called Edina City Hall.

A woman in the engineering department said the bridge is expected to be done by early July of this year. She gave me the phone number for the Minnesota Department of Transportation and said someone there would know more because it’s their project.

A call to MNDOT led me to a woman who was away from her desk. I left my name and number. When she returned my call, I learned that scanning newspaper pieces is not a good idea. The entire bridge wasn’t being taken down as I had thought; just the panels, rails, approaches and deck. When I asked what the deck is, the woman patiently explained it’s the surface, the part we drive on.

I processed the information and pushed aside my laptop. Closed my eyes and visualized other trips up Cedar Avenue to the Crosstown and over my shortcut bridge. Trips when snow covered the ground but not the roads. I wasn’t heading to the hospital but to my father’s apartment on Barrie Road to celebrate Christmas. When I arrived, everyone was there. Dad, too. Presents were piled along a wall. Food, lots of it, was warming in chafing dishes. Someone gave me a hug and a glass of champagne. I raised my glass and said, “I’m so happy to be here.”