HDR to design St. Croix bridge

Stillwater Liftbridge
Vehicles travel across the Stillwater Lift Bridge on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. A new bridge over the St. Croix River will be designed by Omaha, Neb.-based HDR, Minnesota transportation officials announced today.
MPR Photo/Tom Weber

State transportation officials have awarded a contract to design the new St. Croix bridge to Omaha, Neb.-based HDR.

The company beat four other firms for the $14.2 million contract with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to design the bridge over the St. Croix River to connect Oak Park Heights, Minn., and St. Joseph, Wis. Cost of the bridge is expected to be between $280 million and $310 million, and the cost of the entire project is estimated to be between $580 million and $676 million.

HDR's proposal really stood out, said Kevin Western, MnDOT's design director for the St. Croix River Crossing Project.

"They ended up at the top of the list based on both their project understanding, method to deliver the project," Western said.

HDR starts work immediately on the design for the new bridge. Construction could begin as early as fall 2013.

HDR is one of the largest engineering firms in the world with more than 8,000 employees in 185 locations worldwide. The company has revenues of almost $1.6 billion. It ranks 11th on Engineering News-Record's 2012 "Top 500 Design Firms" list.

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.

The company has been involved in previous Minnesota projects and consulted on the Highway 52 Lafayette Bridge. HDR is currently involved in the 35E reconstruction project in St. Paul.

The announcement was probably more notable for those companies not selected. URS Corp. also submitted a bid, but recent controversy about the design firm's safety record fueled speculation over whether URS would land the contract.

URS consulted on the Interstate 35W bridge, which collapsed in 2007. While it didn't design or build that bridge, it did agree to pay more than $50 million to settle lawsuits stemming from the collapse.

MnDOT officials said URS' involvement in the I-35W bridge did not factor into its decision. Officials say they chose HDR's proposal based on its quality.

HDR won't be working alone on the project. The team includes Buckland & Taylor, a Vancouver-based bridge engineering firm, Western said.

"We think it's a very, very good team and we just want to get going," Western said. "I know the HDR and Buckland & Taylor team are very happy to be selected and are ready to get the ball rolling."

The new St. Croix Bridge will be a hybrid of a cable-stayed and a concrete box girder-style bridge. The design will minimize environmental impacts by reducing the number of piers in the river and keeping tower heights below the river bluffs, MnDOT officials said.

When constructed, the new mile-long bridge will be only the second of its kind in the U.S. The first is under construction in Connecticut.

"It's a different bridge type than we've ever built in Minnesota, so that will be a new challenge for us and for the designer," said Nancy Daubenberger, Minnesota's state bridge engineer.

HDR declined to make anyone available for this story, but the company has been recognized for its past work on difficult projects.

HDR was involved in the $240 million Hoover Dam Bypass project, which links Arizona and Nevada nearly 900 feet above the Colorado River. The almost-2,000 foot-long bridge took about a decade to complete and was the first steel-concrete hybrid arch bridge in the nation.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the cost for the new St. Croix bridge. The cost of the bridge itself is expected to be between $280 million and $310 million, and the cost of the entire project is estimated to be between $580 million and $676 million. the current version is correct.