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Ward column: Work on buttonhook ramp takes shape

One of the goals we heard from the community as we planned the Red Wing Bridge replacement project several years ago was that there needed to be improvements for truck traffic crossing the Mississippi River Bridge wanting to connect to/from Highway 61 as a means to alleviate the volume of truck traffic in downtown Red Wing.

You're beginning to see the formation of that goal on the construction site.

The buttonhook ramp, which developed from listening to the community during our project planning efforts, is under construction. Our goal is to open it to traffic by early spring in 2018 on a temporary bridge crossing over Highway 61 — and we're on schedule to do so.

The ramp, when completed, will be controlled by a traffic signal and allow traffic direct access to Highway 61 from the river bridge crossing. It also will be the only route for downtown Red Wing traffic to access the new river crossing as the slip ramp traffic movements will be changing.

The slip ramp is scheduled to close to traffic April 2018 when we switch traffic to the buttonhook ramp and it will not fully open to traffic again until September 2019, when we open the new river bridge. When the slip ramp does open, traffic will only be allowed to enter downtown Red Wing from the new river bridge; traffic originating from downtown Red Wing will have to use the new buttonhook ramp to cross the river and head into Wisconsin.

You may have seen that we recently switched traffic to the new southbound Highway 61 lanes on Tuesday, Oct. 10, as crews began work on the new northbound Highway 61 lanes. Traffic will remain open during this work on Highway 61, but motorists will travel in single lanes in each direction in the new southbound lanes.

The Highway 63/Eisenhower Bridge remains open to traffic during construction, barring any emergency closures.

Piece by piece

In these complex projects, each piece has to fit into the next piece and we work very hard with our contractor, Zenith Tech, to ensure that we are communicating and coordinating to ensure that the work gets done in the correct order, done right and done safely.

There is a lot of work occurring, but Red Wing and its businesses remain open for business. I spend a lot of time in Red Wing these days and I appreciate the effort the community extends to visitors during this busy fall season when you get a chance to showcase your community.

In my September column, I mentioned the importance of being good neighbors, especially with the Island Campground & Marina and the Harbor Bar. The campground is a private business and it's not there for visitors to watch bridge construction. It's not being a good neighbor to drive onto a private business's property if you're not at guest there. We have many other good spots to view the construction and we encourage you to view from a public place.

We also remind the public that although Levee Park in Red Wing is open to the public, the construction zone between Levee Park and the city of Red Wing wastewater treatment plant is not. It is part of the construction zone. Please stay out of this very congested construction zone both during work hours and after hours as well.

We want everyone safe, so it's important to be vigilant with the rules and not enter an area where your safety is at risk. Your presence in a construction zone can also put our team's safety at risk, and we want everyone to come home safely each night.

Thank you for helping.

Tour the bridge site

If you want a closer look, check in with the Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce as Patty Brown and her team are highlighting manufacturing this month and they are coordinating bridge tours. You need to register through the chamber office by calling 651-388-4719 or email to attend, prior to all tours. Tours are limited and can fill up. Thanks to the chamber for helping with this activity.

We remain on schedule and we keep working toward the goal of building the river piers up out of the Mississippi River bottoms by next spring so they will be above the spring 2018 flood levels allowing us to continue progress without interruption.

With the current high river levels, you can see first-hand the construction impacts Mother Nature can have.

The new bridge is expected to open to traffic by fall of 2019 before we take down the existing bridge in this on this $63.4 million construction project.

You may have seen me and Red Wing City Engineer Jay Owens together. We've been presenting information about the project to several civic group 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 also talk with you about the impacts of the slip ramp closure next spring if you desire.

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