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Terry Ward column: A look inside the Red Wing Bridge project

Area of Pier 3, displaying the piles. Photos by MnDOT.1 / 4
Work near the bottom of Pier 3. 2 / 4
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Iron work on the North Abutment. 4 / 4

Terry Ward is the MnDOT construction project manager for the Red Wing Bridge project. He can be reached at 507-421-5318 or

Bridge piers are sometimes the most notable signs of progress in big bridge projects. People see the site work and all of the mobilizing, but once piers seem to sprout from the ground, it seems that the project becomes more tangible to motorists and residents in the community.

That's the case here. If you look over to the Wisconsin side of the project you might begin to see the progress of our piers, key elements in bridge construction. I've included a graphic that shows some of our early progress. You can get updated pier graphics on our Facebook page.

It starts with the cofferdam, a temporary enclosure that allows crews to pump out the water and create a dry area. The Pier 2 cofferdam will be our biggest challenge as we need to work around 20 feet below the Mississippi River water level. We install the cofferdam, then drive piling, which are driven 70 to 170 feet below our pier footing depending on the location of the pier. You've no doubt heard the piles being driven into the ground. The good news is there is no pile driving planned on the Red Wing side of the project.

We then dewater the area, then form and pour the footing with concrete, and work up from there. It's tough work, but Zenith Tech, our contractor, has entrusted the work to skilled people.

Watch the piers rise over time. The new bridge will be supported by six piers and two abutments. One pier, Pier 2, will be in the water.

Meanwhile, we continue to build the buttonhook ramp and temporary ramp on the Minnesota side. There's a short stretch of East Fourth Street that will be closed for one to two weeks, while we re-chlorinate the water line and test it to be sure it meets the standards necessary.

There is a lot of work occurring, but Red Wing and its businesses remain open for business.

This is also a reminder that businesses on the Wisconsin side remain open. There's a different route to get there, but you can still get to the Island Campground & Marina and the Harbor Bar. We've worked with them to make sure they have information and are able to reach their customers and we'll continue that partnership.

Choose a public view

But one note is also important. The campground is a private business and it's not there for visitors to watch bridge construction. We're flattered that you want to watch, but 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 remain on schedule and we keep working toward the goal of building the river piers up to a level, so they will be above the spring 2018 flood levels to continue progress without interruption.

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.

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