New Highway 61 bridge will have raised median in accident-prone areaSome of the most noticeable changes that will come with the new Highway 61 bridge in Hastings are beginning to come to light, and include extended median barriers, the removal of two or three buildings, changes to pedestrian walkways and the addition of drainage basins.
By: Keith Grauman, Hastings Star-Gazette
Some of the most noticeable changes that will come with the new Highway 61 bridge in Hastings are beginning to come to light, and include extended median barriers, the removal of two or three buildings, changes to pedestrian walkways and the addition of drainage basins.
According to Steve Kordosky, the Minnesota Department of Transportation project manager for the $250 to $300 million bridge project, the only buildings MnDOT is looking to demolish to make way for the new bridge are the metal warehouse that juts east off H.D. Hudson Manufacturing, the already-vacated Motor Parts Services building and potentially, a brick garage owned by Xcel Energy that sits next to the substation in downtown on the east side of the bridge.
The median barriers on both sides of the bridge will be similar for all four bridge types still being considered, whether the final design ends up being a single span bridge or twin spans. If it’s a single span bridge, there would be a raised median running along the center of the entire bridge.
The north side of the bridge is of particular concern because of several fatal traffic accidents that have occurred there in the last few years.
As you drive north coming off the bridge, there will be a raised median that will extend to the railroad bridge that lies just south of the turnoff for King’s Cove Marina. The median will be similar in design to what was installed last summer on Highway 61 as you drive north out of Hastings and up the hill.
At the railroad bridge, the raised median would transition down to what’s there today, a simple curb median.
A turnoff that allows northbound drivers to turn left into Hub’s Landing and Marina will be closed off by the raised median. To allow northbound drivers to access Hub’s, a road will be built off the east side of the highway and will run under the bridge and around to the marina.
On the south side of the bridge, a raised median will extend south past Third Street to a location yet to be decided, which will cut off the pedestrian crossing that exists there today. Similar to the north side, somewhere between Third and Fourth streets, the raised median will transition down to what’s there now, a simple curb median.
Kordosky said Third Street isn’t a good place for a crossing from a safety standpoint. So instead, pedestrians and users of the trail that will run across the bridge, will be routed up to the signal at Fourth Street.
The idea of a spiral-shaped pedestrian walkway that would come off the bridge and bring people into downtown is still being considered by MnDOT and the Visual Quality Team that’s made of up MnDOT and local officials.
Construction of the spiral walkway would add about $3 million to the total cost of the project, Kordosky said, which includes design, construction and right of way costs. If the walkway is constructed, MnDOT would have to acquire and demolish the brick garage that’s just east of the bridge next to the substation in downtown.
The spiral would be about 90 feet in diameter and would probably have to loop around about three times to traverse the 40-foot drop from the bridge to the ground below. A “switchback” walkway, which would go back and fourth in a straight north-south or east-west layout, is also being considered, but MnDOT hasn’t come up with a cost estimate for that option.
Because federal water runoff laws have changed since the existing bridge was built in the 1950s, there will have to be drainage basins installed on both the north and south sides of the bridge.
There’s been some talk of building the basin on the south of the bridge underground because there’s not an ideal spot above ground to locate it. There’s concern a drainage basin in downtown wouldn’t match the historic character of the area.
The above-ground option would likely mean the bridge is pushed further to the south to create an open space under the bridge between Second and Third streets for the drainage basin.
On the north side of the bridge, the drainage basin would likely be built above ground on the west side of the bridge.