Viewpoint: Bridge construction in Minnesota soon to begin

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I am Terry Ward, the MnDOT construction project manager for the Red Wing Bridge project. I hope to bring you a monthly update in this space through the duration of the project, so you can stay informed and learn about how we build a new bridge across the Mississippi River. We're grateful to the Republican-Eagle for publishing our updates.

My background is in construction and I've been entrusted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation with some key projects through the years. Most recently, I've overseen the construction of the new Highway 43 Bridge in Winona and the start of the rehabilitation of Bridge 5900, which was built in 1942. Before that I oversaw the Interstate 90 Dresbach Bridge near La Crosse, Wis., and played key roles in the I-35W bridge construction and the ROC 52 project in Rochester that expanded Highway 52 through the city. In short, I've been blessed to have been part of numerous high profile projects.

The Red Wing Bridge is another large, complex project that requires strong, talented partners and good cooperation. My team and I look forward to working with each of you over the next three years as together we deliver a new bridge for the Red Wing community and region. We've enjoyed a good working relationship with the city of Red Wing. You're a city whose residents and leaders are talented and take pride in their efforts. We hope to continue this strong partnership in all aspects of the project.

Much of the early Red Wing Bridge project construction has been on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River. There, we've removed trees, started constructing a temporary causeway for river access, placed fill for the north abutment of the new bridge, started excavation of the 825th street east roadway, installed a temporary bypass, and started installing temporary sheeting along Highway 63.

Next week we are scheduled to start bridge pile driving operations on the north abutment and look to gain access to the Mississippi River by extending the temporary causeway across the backwaters. In the next month, you should start to see much more activity in building the new bridge foundations with cofferdams and activity in the Mississippi River.

On the Minnesota side, residents can expect to see greater activity this month as the project picks up speed.

Four buildings that were obtained to make room for the project will be demolished beginning soon. Visitors to Levee Park will note the closure of the road near bridge pier. No through traffic for vehicles or pedestrians will be allowed while a sanitary sewer main is installed.

In the next month we also will start work on Highway 61 with lane closures and begin the button hook construction. The project goal is to upgrade Highway 61 with a new signalized intersection with the button hook and install a temporary Highway 63 bridge over Highway 61 by the end of this construction season so we can place traffic on it right out of the gate next spring.

It's important to remember that we've done a lot of work in advance for this project and we plan to keep the Highway 63/Eisenhower Bridge open to traffic during construction, barring any emergency closures.

This project is more than just a new bridge. We will replace the small Highway 63 Bridge over Highway 61, reconstruct the Minnesota and Wisconsin approach roadways, improve access to Red Wing and upgrade pedestrian and bicycle crossings.

The prime contractor on this $63.4 million project is Zenith Tech Inc. of Waukesha, Wis. The new bridge is expected to open to traffic by fall of 2019.

A project of this size requires a great deal of coordination with many people. We also want to be sure that you understand it. I've joined Red Wing City Engineer Jay Owens in presenting information about the project to several civic groups thus far. We'd be happy to visit with your group or I'd be happy to visit 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.

You can learn more about the project or sign up for email updates by going to MnDOT's project web site www.dot.state.mn.us/d6/projects/redwing-bridge/ or you can follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RedWingBridgeProject/.

Terry Ward is the MnDOT construction project manager for the Red Wing Bridge project. He can be reached at 507-421-5318 or terry.ward@state.mn.us. This column is scheduled to run at the first of each month.