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Red Wing bridge plans tweaked to address traffic woes

RED WING — A tweak to the Minnesota Department of Transportation's plan for Red Wing's new interstate bridge is aimed at solving downtown congestion that has plagued the historic river city for decades.

Minnesota Department of Transportation project manager Chad Hanson held a public listening session Tuesday in Red Wing, where he announced the city's downtown traffic issues are now considered a primary need. They previously had been considered a secondary goal, which aren't required to be addressed.

The primary goals previously had been to provide a structurally sound crossing of the Mississippi River and U.S. 61.

The added emphasis means rehabilitating the area where the Eisenhower Bridge directs Wisconsin traffic into the city's historic downtown district is off the table. In short, maintaining the status quo — which has been widely panned by city officials — is no longer an option for the $100 million to $120 million project that's still on track to begin in 2018.

MnDOT's decision was swayed after it received feedback from the public since planning for a new bridge began years ago, Hanson said. Frequent truck traffic has been especially problematic at the intersection of Plum Street and West Third Street, causing multiple accidents.


"We were going to try to fix those (traffic concerns) but didn't have to because they were not a primary need," Hanson said. "Now, it is. The layperson may not understand that change, but it really is important because now it's something we need to address.

"We've listened to the public, and it's clear they think this is something that needs attention."

Potential solutions include directing Wisconsin traffic directly to U.S. 61 via buttonhook, which could mean adding a stoplight near Barn Bluff. That option also could be used in conjunction with a slip ramp that still allows motorists to directly access downtown Red Wing.

The other announcement made Tuesday by MnDOT is that a 20-member committee has begun meeting to consider visual quality aspects of the bridge design. The group of local leaders appears to be leaning toward a classic design of the steel box girder, Hanson said, but the nine-month evaluation process will consider related issues such as lighting, landscaping and retaining walls.

Red Wing will be a hotbed of road construction over the next five years. The bridge is one of eight MnDOT projects planned during that time. Mike Dougherty, MnDOT's District 6 spokesman, says city officials have done well communicating those plans with the public to alert them to pending detours.

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