Wakota Bridge could be delayed due to 35W project

When it's finished...
The Wakota bridge, which carries I-494 traffic over the Mississippi River in the southeastern metro, will look like this after it's rebuilt. The project is now half completed and could be delayed again.
Image courtesy of MnDOT

Officials with the Minnesota Department of Transportation say they have a list of 200 road and bridge projects that could be delayed if they don't get spending authority to rebuild the I-35W bridge.

The list covers projects across the state, including the Wakota Bridge project in the east metro area. The opening of the east-bound section of the bridge has already been delayed until 2009 so the project can be rebid.

MnDOT officials have asked a legislative panel to authorize additional transportation spending so the I-35W bridge and other projects can proceed.

Sen. Kathy Salzman, DFL-Woodbury, said she's disappointed that MnDOT initially offered assurances that projects would not be delayed but now says they could be.

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"We were reassured in our legislative hearings that there was not going to be a problem," she said. "It's on tape. We asked repeatedly, and we were assured that there was a plan. If there's not a plan now, I don't know why we're not being informed that there's this collapse in financial strategy."

MnDOT spokeswoman Lucy Kender said it's too soon to say which projects could be delayed.

"The list of MnDOT projects not yet let in 2008 is about nine-and-a-half pages long. There are several hundred projects on that list that we will be reviewing if we have to go to that deferral stage," she said.

Several lawmakers are saying Gov. Pawlenty should work to pass a comprehensive transportation funding package so delays won't occur.

The federal government has authorized $250 million for the I-35W bridge project but has not appropriated the money. Pawlenty and state lawmakers are worried the funding could be delayed as Congress and President Bush negotiate a budget.