Technically, spring is here. But soon spring temperatures will arrive, and we’ll be well into that other familiar time of the year: construction season. Here in Hastings, construction will continue on the new Highway 61 spanning the Mississippi River.
The new Hastings Bridge has been more than two years in the making. Last fall, thousands of onlookers — and many thousands more online — watched as construction crews floated the main span and lifted it into place. Since then, crews have been working on several other elements of the main span to prepare the bridge for the busy construction season ahead. In 2013, commuters, travelers and regional residents have several milestones to anticipate: pouring the bridge deck for the roadway; switching two lanes of traffic onto the new bridge in late spring; demolishing the old bridge; and opening all four lanes of traffic (tentatively) by the end of 2013.
With a 100-year life span the new Hastings Bridge will enhance travel, efficiency and safety for both the community and the region. Those familiar with Hastings know that as a river community, bridges become part of our identity. True to Hastings’ distinctive local character, the new Hastings Bridge stands out from the skyline with its terra cotta-colored arches — the longest free-standing arch rib in all of North America.
Vital to the economy
As in every community, public infrastructure is vital to the economy’s health. In fact, both the old and new bridges provide direct access to Hastings’ charming historical downtown district. The new bridge allows people and commerce to be mobile and attracts new members to our business community.
Each investment that Minnesota makes to enhance its public transportation system is an investment back into our communities. We must keep our communities moving if we want them to succeed. Highway 61 and the Hastings Bridge serve as an important transportation artery, which is why the new bridge was accelerated.
Safety and innovation
The new bridge was designed with safety and innovation in mind and includes features that will benefit the community and visitors alike:
- Four lanes of traffic (compared to two on the existing bridge)
- 12-foot-wide pedestrian/bike paths
- Modern anti-icing system
- Open public plaza south of 2nd Street
- Public art display on the south abutment wall
- Scenic overlook incorporated near Levee Park
- Additional parking beneath the bridge
- A new North Loop that creates safer traffic flow on, off and around the bridge, safe access to trails for southbound pedestrians/bikers, and provides safe access to Hastings’ marinas
The progress made in the months ahead on the new Hastings Bridge is a reminder why it’s so critically important to invest in additional transportation infrastructure capacity. We can grow state and regional jobs, move people, goods and services, and seek long-term economic benefits. The benefits from this new bridge will reach far beyond the immediate community. And that is why those of us who have been closely following or involved in the project are excited for the new construction season to arrive. The new Hastings Bridge will be a 21st century landmark to be trusted and enjoyed by current and future generations.
Paul Hicks was born and raised in Hastings. He was elected mayor of Hastings in 2006 and re-elected in 2010. He is employed by the Minnesota House of Representatives, where he works as an assistant supervisor in the Office of the Chief Clerk.
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