Highway 61 bridge closure could last 72 hours during new span's move after Labor Day
The current Hastings bridge will be closed for up to 72 hours when the main span for the new bridge is moved into place just after Labor Day.
Firm dates aren't in place just yet, but it looks like the bridge will be moved from its spot on Lock and Dam Road beginning on or around Wednesday, Sept. 5. Exactly when the bridge will be closed isn't known, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation is saying that the current bridge will be closed during the latter stages of the span move, likely around Sept. 6 or Sept. 7.
The span's move was originally slated to take place in two stages, but that appears to no longer be the case. The first stage was going to include the span being moved from land to water. The second stage was going to include the span being floated downstream.
The bridge move subcontractors, Mammoet, are now leaning toward doing the move all at once, according to MnDOT's Kirsten Klein. That hasn't been finalized, but that does appear to be the plan now.
In this scenario, teams would begin moving the span from the water to the river on about Wednesday, Sept. 5. By the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 6, the span could be floating downstream. By that Thursday evening, the current bridge would be shut down, and the closure would last until about Sunday evening.
The river itself would be closed near the project site, too, including the public boat launch in Hastings.
Of course, all of this is subject to change depending on the weather, the subcontractor and other factors.
Obviously, the closure will have an impact on many people, businesses and services, including Hastings School District 200.
The district buses students to and from the elementary schools as well as Hastings High School and Hastings Middle School from Denmark Township (across the Highway 61 bridge) in the morning and afternoon. The bridge closure could mean longer bus rides for the students.
The district does have plans, although tentative at this time as to how it will deal with the closure, according to Superintendent Tim Collins. The decision as when the bridge is closed is not up to the school district.
"The Hastings bridge project is making great progress and they are preparing to float the bridge deck up the river and raise it into place sometime between Sept. 4 and Sept. 16," he said. "There are two variables that make it very difficult to pinpoint the exact date: wind and the U.S. Coast Guard."
The Coast Guard will give permission on a specific day, when it knows that the barges are being held back. At the same time (from what Collins has been told), the wind cannot be stronger than 15 miles per hour when they raise the deck into place. As the bridge floats downstream and as it is raised into place, the current bridge will be closed.
"This, of course, will have an impact on the time students will be on the bus north of the bridge, end of the day drop-off time for students north of the bridge, travel time for our employees and parents and possibly some after-school activities," said Collins.
The bus company plans to keep the pick-up times at the normal scheduled times. However, those students will not get to school at the regular starting time, and at the end of the day those same students will not get home later than their normal drop off time.
"We wanted to keep the pick-up times at the regular time to try and prevent confusion at the beginning of the school year," he said.
When the bridge is closed, there will be a plan to follow, Collins said.
"We will use a variety of communication tools to inform parents, students and staff who are impacted by the closure of the bridge," he said. "We have the ability to use School Connects, email, our web site and direct phone calls. How we communicate will depend on the time of day that we are notified of the closure.
"For example, if we are notified at 11 a.m. Sept. 5 that they will be closing the bridge at noon, we will then directly call parents that the bridge is closing and their child will be dropped off later than the expected time," said Collins. "Our employees will receive an e-mail and intercom announcement informing them the bridge will be closed."