Lanes opening next week on new Hastings Bridge

Bridge watchers
Spectators gather at the Jaycee Park on the Mississippi River in a file photo from Sept. 22, 2012, as the main span of the new Highway 61 bridge in Hastings was being floated into place.
Anthony Kwan for MPR

The new Hastings Bridge is set to open one lane in each direction early next week.

Construction crews will finish paving and painting over the weekend, and by Monday afternoon, one lane of southbound traffic will be rerouted from the old bridge to the new bridge. By Tuesday, the same will happen for the northbound lane, which will be a relief for many.

To find Main Street in downtown Hastings, drivers have to follow signs, run an orange obstacle course and take a few detours.

It has been a messy maze for some business owners since bridge construction started nearly three years ago.

"People see the orange signs and they say, 'I don't even want to deal with it," said Jeannie Godfrey of the Red Rock Cafe. "People say, "We can't find you ... I don't know how to get here.'"

The end is in sight for businesses and commuters.

Officials at the Minnesota Department of Transportation estimate that 33,000 people drive daily across the Hastings Bridge, which is called the busiest "one lane in each direction" bridge in Minnesota.

The replacement bridge was built off-site and floated into place. But the project has had a few problems: The late spring affected grading work, and crews faced weather delays and high water.

And then there was the cost. The bridge replacement, originally slated at $120 million, will ultimately cost more than $130 million. MnDOT officials said the scope was increased so the cost went up, and the agency also paid the contractor to accelerate construction.

Still, residents in the river town are looking forward to better traffic flow and a smoother ride.

"It'll be pretty exciting to have traffic going over the new Hastings Bridge," said project manager Steve Kordowsky.

The city of Hastings is planning a ceremony next week to say goodbye to its old bridge. Demolition on the old south approach will also begin next week.

All four lanes of the new Hastings Bridge will be open to traffic by the end of the year.

The replacement is part of MnDOT's overall bridge strategy. The Lafayette Bridge in St. Paul is being replaced, and the St. Croix and Winona spans are next.

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