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Barrier on new Hastings bridge extends on north side

Monday's fatal crash just north of the Highway 61 bridge raised ongoing questions about the speed and length of the J-type concrete median along that portion of the highway. The crash occurred in the area where there is no concrete median and the speed limit is 40 miles per hour. At the top of the hill, the speed limit is 60 miles per hour.

Steve Kordosky, Minnesota Department of Transportation's Highway 61 project manager, said the new bridge, scheduled for a later summer construction start, will include a concrete barrier.

"The median barrier will start at Third Street (on the south side) and go over the bridge and continue north to the first railroad bridge crossing," he said. The current J-type median will remain as is."

Monday's crash occurred in the area north of the bridge where there is no J-type median. The concrete J-type median was constructed almost three years ago after several fatal crashes. Both Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, and Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, pushed hard for the new median. MnDOT was able to secure $300,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation's State and Community Highway Safety program to help pay for the median.

While happy to hear about the proposed median barrier as part of the upcoming bridge project, McNamara is still concerned about the speed of southbound vehicles approaching the bridge.

"I am concerned about the speed in the area and plan to voice my concerns," he said.

"I am going to write a letter to MnDOT, and ask that they consider doing an evaluation of the speed limit."

He acknowledged that the speed limit from the top of the hill to the bridge approach has been reduced, but said that not everyone obeys the speed limit.

"Certainly, not everyone is going the posted limit," McNamara said. "We ask people to slow down, but unfortunately, some are traveling at an excessive speed there."

Hastings City Council Member Joe Balsanek has requested MnDOT lower the speed limit on Highway 61 north of the bridge to "mirror what the speed limits are going in and out of Red Wing and Stillwater. On both highways, the speed limits are reduced sequentially from 65 miles per hour to 55 miles per hour to 50 miles per hour to 40 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour."

MnDOT has indicated it would do a study after the bridge construction has been completed. In his request to the department, Balsanek asked that it not wait.

"I've received dozens of phone calls and had many conversations with residents who feel the same as I do; the speed limit must be lowered, now and not later," he wrote to Kordosky.

At Monday's City Council meeting, City Administrator Dave Osberg said he will prepare a resolution for the City Council's consideration at an upcoming meeting.