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Crews working on Highway 61 bridge in Hastings are working to limit project delay

Crews working on the new Highway 61 bridge in Hastings are getting ever more optimistic that they will get the project completed by the late fall of 2013.

Originally, the bridge was to be completed by May 2013. An extended period of high water last spring and then the state government shutdown led to some delays in the project. That shutdown essentially meant the Hastings project was put on the back burner at the steel mill, as inspectors from the Minnesota Department of Transportation couldn't be onsite at the mill to ensure the quality of the work.

When the shutdown was finally ended, Hastings had lost its place in line and the project was delayed.

Initially, it was feared the bridge wouldn't be completed until May 2014, a one-year delay. It appears now that more likely scenario would be a late fall 2013 completion.

All of this is contingent upon relatively good weather this spring and next and no further delays.

"Overall, there's been a convergence of challenging events," said project manager Steve Kordosky from MnDOT. "Certainly, they include the high water in the Mississippi that we had for most of the 2011 season, and we had the government shutdown. There's always some issues you have to overcome in construction as you're building a project - we've been overcoming a lot of them."

When the contractors for the project, Lunda/Ames, earned the $120 million project, they took it on knowing the May 2013 deadline. There was a clause in the contract, though, that allowed for delays if the water level in the river exceeded a certain level for an extended period of time. For a significant portion of 2011, that threshold was met. Then, when the shutdown occurred, the deadline went out the window altogether.

The delay is going to mean at least six more months of work that Lunda/Ames will have to devote to the project, and that will come at a cost. Exactly what that cost is still hasn't been determined, Kordosky said.

"Both MnDOT and the contractor are looking at ways to recover the schedule, and the cost of that recovery has not yet been determined," he said. "I would hope we'd have those things worked out before mid-summer."


The amended timeline for the project should look something like this, if all goes as planned:

Right around Thanksgiving this year, the main span of the bridge would be floated in.

By the mid-summer of 2013, a portion of the new bridge would open to traffic. One lane in each direction would open.

Once that takes place, crews could begin dismantling the current bridge. Once the current bridge is out of the way, the final piece of the bridge (the northbound approach in downtown Hastings) can be built. That approach can't be built until the current bridge is out of the way.

The project

The relatively mild winter has helped crews working in the river. Work on the massive piers continues, and once that work is done around mid-March the massive 165-ton concrete girders will be set. The goal is to set the girders before the threat of high water comes this spring.

The floor system and the arch ribs are being fabricated now, and it is believed the floor system will starting show up here around the end of March, Kordosky said. The ribs should start arriving around May 1.

The floor system and the arch ribs will be assembled in the staging area near the Lock and Dam starting in May and lasting until about July.