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Terry Ward column: The past is part of the new bridge

The Minnesota Department of Transportation will alert traffic starting in April 2018 as a buttonhook design is part of the Red Wing Bridge construction plan. MnDOT illustration1 / 2
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Like several other Mississippi River communities, Red Wing has a rich history based on its setting and surroundings. For example, according to historical records, Father Louis Hennepin visited the area as far back as 1680. Also, the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed Red Wing on its 2008 distinctive destinations list, for its "impressive architecture and enviable natural environment."

Last month, I wrote about the Historic American Engineering Record report for Bridge 9103, the Highway 63 approach bridge to the Eisenhower Bridge that carries traffic over Highway 61 near the base of Barn Bluff. Bridge 9103 was designed by Alfred Benesch and Associates of Chicago, the same firm that designed the Eisenhower Bridge over the Mississippi.

Minnesota Department of Transportation's Cultural Resources Unit, which helps guide us and partners with local communities in evaluating and retaining historic and cultural resources encountered on our projects, writes "Built in 1960, Bridge 9103 was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as an important Minnesota example of post- World War II bridge design. It had a sleek, Mid-Century Modern appearance and was exceptionally long and curved for its engineering type: a continuous concrete slab span."

A portion of Bridge 9103 was removed in December to help make way for a temporary bridge as part of the construction of the new replacement bridge and buttonhook ramp. During the bridge removal operations, we saved one of the existing Bridge 9103 name plates for our local historical partners.

We are scheduled to present the historic bridge plate to the Goodhue County Historical Society at 10 a.m. Feb. 7 at Red Wing City Hall. MnDOT also created an interpretative panel about Bridge 9103 that will be displayed this year at various venues in Red Wing.

Our team is highly focused on safely building a new bridge and its connected pieces such as the highway ramps that will connect businesses and communities on both sides of the river. Yet we don't lose sight of the effects of construction and the history that we are part of as we build something new.

Next month, I will feature the vibration monitoring plan and efforts we are taking to protect and preserve all the historical features associated with our project.

We continue to work toward the goal of having the new bridge open to traffic by fall of 2019 before we take down the existing bridge in this $63.4 million construction project.

In mentioning the buttonhook ramp, I think it's important to know that traffic will change in April when we start a long-term closure of the slip ramp, which brings traffic onto Third Street at Potter Street in Red Wing. You can read about the closure here:

The closure will be for about a year and a half and will bring traffic into Red Wing via Highway 61.

If you or your business would like more information, I'd be happy to meet with you and explain how this portion of the project will work. Eventually, the slip ramp will open again, but not until fall of 2019. We want to hear your views and understand how you view the change.

This project is a strong partnership that includes the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the city of Red Wing, the Federal Highway Administration and our contractor, Zenith Tech, Inc.

As part of team's efforts, you will see Red Wing City Engineer Jay Owens and I together at various community events or on a bridge tour. We've been presenting information about the project to civic groups and we'd be happy to visit with your group or provide your organization or business with the necessary information about the project so you can keep your employees informed. We've found that if you know more about the project, you can help others understand it and minimize any possible disruptions it might cause. We do regular updates on the Community Access Channel 6, so you can catch us there as we provide updates and field questions.

We have a lot of good information that can help explain the project. You can learn more about the project or sign up for email updates by going to MnDOT's project web site or you can follow us on Facebook at