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New Hastings bridge will be decided on July 14

"If any person can show just cause why this bridge should not be built, speak now or forever hold your peace."

That is essentially what the Minnesota Department of Transportation is saying to the public regarding the construction of the new Highway 61 bridge in Hastings.

The comment period for the environmental assessment, which examines things like social, environmental and economic impacts the new bridge may have, runs through June 17.

At Monday's Hastings Bridge Coalition meeting, Steve Kordosky, the project manager for the bridge construction, said MnDOT staff would be meeting with Federal Highway Administration staff July 14 to decide what they will call their "preferred alternative," or the bridge type MnDOT will more than likely build.

That decision will be announced to the public July 15.

Over the past eight months, MnDOT has held several open houses at Hastings City Hall during which it collected comments from the public on the bridge types being considered and the project as a whole. Those open houses culminated in the official public hearing on the environmental assessment that was held late last month and drew about 100 people.

The release of the environmental assessment to the public in May marked the final 45 days for the public to comment on the project.

Major stakeholders, such as the city of Hastings, National Parks Service, Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Natural Resources, all have yet to submit their comments on the project to MnDOT, but Kordosky said he doesn't expect those to come in until the final few days of the comment period that runs through the 17th.

After the July 15 announcement of the bridge type MnDOT most likely will build, other environmental work will continue into November. If something of importance is discovered during that time, it could change the bridge type MnDOT will be looking at, but the likelihood of that happening is very small, Kordosky said.

The factors MnDOT and the FHWA will consider when deciding on the bridge type are cost (initial and future maintenance), constructability, impacts (social, environmental and economic), visual quality and stakeholder comments.

The most recent numbers related to the cost of construction for the three bridge types being considered are (in 2013 dollars): $245-$260 million for the twin concrete box girder bridge, $255-$280 million for the single arch bridge, and $275-$300 million for the single cable bridge.

Future maintenance costs are difficult to put hard numbers to, but comparatively speaking, the girder bridge is the cheapest to maintain.

Paper copies of the environmental assessment are available at the Pleasant Hill Library in Hastings, the Park Grove Public Library in Cottage Grove and on MnDOT's website at Comments can be submitted to MnDOT via its website or in writing.

MnDOT plans to have the bridge under a design-build contract by June 2010.

The Hastings Star Gazette and Red Wing Republican Eagle are both owned by Forum Communications Co.