Bridge program proffered


The Department of Transportation plans to repair or replace 120 trunk highway bridges in the next decade.

In the latest of a cooperative working agreement with the Legislature, department officials presented their first draft plan, largely based on a funding law passed this year.

Commissioner Tom Sorel told a joint meeting of the House and Senate transportation committees that MnDOT personnel want department activity to be transparent and that legislator feedback is wanted.

The law, mostly effective Feb. 26, 2008, funded with a combination of tax increases and bonding, is expected to result in an estimated $4.46 billion in revenues over the next decade.

Of that amount, nearly $2.5 billion is the basis for a trunk highway bridge improvement program to accelerate span repair or replacement.

According to the law, MnDOT is to develop an inventory of bridges included in the program, to include all bridges on the trunk highway system classified as fracture-critical, structurally deficient or that constitute a priority project. Each bridge is to be classified into Tier 1, 2 or 3, with Tier 1 being the highest. Repair or replacement of all Tier 1 or Tier 2 bridges must commence by June 30, 2018.

A master bridge list identified 172 bridges, of which 120 are to be under contract by the designated date. “The remaining bridges are either currently under construction, privately owned or have been determined not to need work until after the 2018 timeframe,” according to a draft planning document.

Officials said they can meet this goal, although some bond funds in Fiscal Year 2015 may need to be accelerated.

Eleven major bridges have been identified for replacement, including Mississippi River crossings in St. Cloud, Hastings, St. Paul, Winona and Red Wing. The St. Cloud crossing was shut down in March after inspectors found bent gusset plates. Similar worry recently shut down the Winona crossing, before it was reopened June 14 with weight and height restrictions.