Eisenhower Bridge project gets rollingRed Wing’s Eisenhower Bridge, which carries Highway 63 from downtown Red Wing into Wisconsin, is set for major improvements or replacement in 2018 or 2019.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
Red Wing’s Eisenhower Bridge, which carries Highway 63 from downtown Red Wing into Wisconsin, is set for major improvements or replacement in 2018 or 2019. While that may seem like a long way off, Minnesota Department of Transportation bridge project manager Chad Hanson said there’s a lot that needs to be done between now and then.
“It’s the beginning of a long process,” he said.
Hanson, along with Red Wing City Engineer Jay Owens and Red Wing Planning Director Brian Peterson, spoke about the looming project at the Red Wing Manufacturers Association meeting Monday night.
“This is a major, major project that will have a long-lasting impact on our community,” Peterson said.
While the main project is the Eisenhower Bridge, two other issues could also be addressed at the same time. The first is the replacement or rehabilitation of the bridge that carries Highway 63 over Highway 61, which is scheduled for work in 2017. The second project is improving traffic flow through the downtown area.
“It starts with the river bridge, then the one over (Highway) 61 gets wrapped in. If we replace that one, it brings in the traffic issues,” Hanson said.
The project has been given what Hanson calls a “very rough” budget of $180 million.
“We don’t know until we get into it,” he said of the final price tag, adding that so much about the project is still “up in the air.”
At Monday’s meeting, Peterson outlined how the bridge project could impact the city and issues that should be taken into consideration.
Among them are: how the Eisenhower Bridge connects to downtown and its traffic patterns, which in turn affects the downtown economy; how the bridge project would affect nearby historic areas; and how pedestrians, bicyclists and others use the bridge.
One issue Peterson brought up was the aesthetic appearance of a new bridge, adding that the current bridge is commonly used in the Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce’s and the Visitor and Convention Bureau’s publications.
“We need to think of the impact of that bridge and how it fits in with Red Wing’s marketing efforts,” Peterson said.
Another big issue is whether or not the bridge would be able to stay open during the construction process.
“We feel that has to stay open. That’s definitely a top priority to keep it open,” Owens said. He added that about one-third of Red Wing’s labor force and as many as 11,700 cars use the bridge every day.
Because the project will have such a large impact on the city, MnDOT has formed three different committees made up of Red Wing community leaders and members who will meet throughout the project’s planning and construction phases.
“It’s a cross section of different people who would have an interest in the project,” Hanson said of the committees. “Everybody is going to need to be involved throughout the whole process.”
St. Paul-based planning and assessment firm Short Elliot Hendrickson Inc., recently began a three-year study that will begin the planning stages for the project.
The first part of the study will determine whether the bridges can be rehabilitated or if they actually need to be completely replaced.
“If we find we can’t rehab it, then we look at replacement,” Hanson said.
The study will also take into account things like the city’s historic areas, natural wildlife, cultural resources and social and economic impact of the bridge project.
“There are about 30 things we have to look at,” Hanson said.
The last half of the study will involve the actual design of the bridge and construction plan, Hanson said.
An open house will be held in the Red Wing Public Library April 12 to allow community members to ask questions and voice their opinions about the project.
“It’s Red Wing’s, it’s everybody’s project,” Hanson said. “We really want to keep the public informed and get as much input as possible.”
If you go…
What: Open house on Mississippi River Bridge Crossing Project
When: Thursday, April 12, 5-7 p.m. with formal presentation at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Red Wing Public Library Foot Room
More information: www.dot.state.mn.us/d6/projects/redwing-bridge/index.html