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MnDOT seeks ideas for new Red Wing bridges

The Eisenhower Bridge, which spans the Mississippi River from Red Wing to Wisconsin is pictured Monday, April 30, 2012.

RED WING — An end to downtown Red Wing's traffic tangle might finally be in sight.

The iconic Eisenhower Bridge, the only Mississippi River crossing between Hastings and Wabasha, and the nearby U.S. Highway 63 bridge over U.S. Highway 61 are scheduled to be either repaired or replaced in 2018.

Minnesota Department of Transportation officials recently began gathering information for the large-scale project, which includes multiple highway connections into downtown Red Wing as well as approach roads on both the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the Eisenhower Bridge.

"This is a large project for the two states, with many challenges that need to be addressed or taken into consideration," said Chad Hanson, MnDOT project manager.

With Highways 61, 63 and 58 converging within one city block, driving in downtown Red Wing can be difficult during peak traffic times and tourist season.


City Planning Director Brian Peterson said Red Wing officials have been talking for more than two decades about how to remedy the problem so traffic can move more smoothly through the historic downtown corridor.

He and other officials believe MnDOT’s project can provide the answer residents and city leaders have been looking for, and possibly even stimulate economic development with a more attractive and easy-to-navigate downtown.

"I think that people are hopeful that we’ll have a project that gets people over the river safely but also addresses some of our other major traffic issues," Peterson said. "The current configuration probably worked fine in the 1960s, but with increased traffic and bigger trucks, it has created a real bottleneck."

Liberty’s Restaurant is at the heart of that bottleneck.

Owner Doug Noreen admits traffic congestion is a problem, but he hopes the bridge project doesn’t detour traffic away from downtown businesses that are already struggling.

"This would be devastating to our downtown, which has already taken a noticeable loss of retail stores in the area," Noreen said. "I just hope they keep the flow through town in a very similar pattern as we have now."

MnDOT officials held the first of several meetings earlier this month to introduce the project and begin gathering ideas from the public.

The process will help officials decide whether the bridges need to be replaced or rehabilitated.


"The local communities are the ones that will have to live with the final alternative, so it will be very important to have their input," Hanson said.

The project’s final design is scheduled to be complete between 2014 and 2017.

Officials say maintaining traffic flow during construction or repair of the bridges will be a major concern as plans are developed.

The Eisenhower Bridge, built in 1960, carried more than 11,500 vehicles between Minnesota and Wisconsin every day in 2011. Like the Interstate 35W bridge that collapsed in 2007, the Eisenhower Bridge could collapse if one critical member of the structure failed.

Inspectors from both Minnesota and Wisconsin officials have deemed the bridge safe, but Peterson said the 35W bridge collapse pushed Red Wing’s project to the front of the line.

"This idea has always been just kind of floating out there," Peterson said. "This is the first time we’ve had a concrete construction date."

Red Wing officials will continue to monitor the project closely and will work with MnDOT as plans move forward.

Hanson said the project’s cost has yet to be determined, but that funding will likely come from federal, Wisconsin and Minnesota coffers. Local dollars may also be used, depending on the project’s specifics.


Visit the MnDOT website for more information and to learn how to comment on the project.

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