Homeless advocates question Des Moines' bridge "riprap"
City crews recently installed a cement-rock mixture known as "matrix riprap" underneath two Des Moines bridges vandalized by fires.
Why it matters: Homeless advocates criticized the rough surfaces on social media this week, saying it deters people from sleeping or loitering under the bridges.
- But city leaders say bridge stabilization was the driving factor behind the projects.
How it works: The rocky material is placed along bridge foundations, and glued together — often with a cement-based grout.
- Riprap prevents people from removing bridge support materials and helps secure infrastructure during floods, according to research by Minnesota's Department of Transportation.
Flashback: Fires under the Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and University Avenue bridges damaged their structural support systems in recent years and caused about $170,000 in damages.
What they're saying: The city determined the best solution to repair the damage was to embed the rocks in concrete, city engineer Steven Naber told us yesterday.
- Melissa O'Neil, CEO of Central Iowa Shelter & Services, told Jason in March that riprap is necessary to protect the infrastructure and public's safety.
- City leaders aren't out to make the lives of homeless people more miserable, she said after a public meeting where the bridge problems were discussed.
Of note: DSM is launching new homeless assistance programs, including a pop-up care village that we told you about in July.
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