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Completion of Hastings bridge delayed following shutdown

The state government shutdown lasted just three weeks, but its impact will be far greater. On Monday, the project manager for the new Highway 61 bridge in Hastings, Steve Kordosky, said the shutdown will result in a delay of at least six months.

The bridge had been scheduled to be completed by May 31, 2013. Now, it appears that the earliest the project will be finished is November 2013. The more likely scenario puts completion at May 2014.

What happened?

First, high water kept construction crews out of the river this spring and summer. Construction on the piers is behind schedule, but plans were introduced to speed up the work which would have included evening work and weekend work.

Second, when the state shutdown occurred in July for three weeks, Minnesota Department of Transportation inspectors could not be at the steel mill where the main span of the bridge was being built. They couldn't inspect the welds and watch the work being completed, so the mill had to put the project on the shelves. Three weeks later, they had moved at least a few other projects ahead of the Hastings bridge.

"Our bridge isn't the only bridge in town," Kordosky said. "They took our steel and pulled it off the floor and brought in another bridge."

The end result is that the main span for the bridge will not be completed until March.

Crews can't work in the river in April due to high water and shortly thereafter the navigational shipping season begins. It is impossible for the contractor to do its work in the river while barges are coming by, Kordosky said. That's why the main span was scheduled to be floated in just after Thanksgiving this year -- by then, the navigational shipping season has concluded.

Now, the more likely scenario is that the main span is floated in just after Thanksgiving in 2013 and the bridge would then be completed by May 31, 2014.

The delay will end up costing either taxpayers or the contractor some money, but it's too early to determine how much this will cost or who will be left paying for it.

"It's unfortunate," Kordosky said.