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Editorial: New Hastings bridge scaled back? It's not a joke

April Fool's Day has come and gone. Unfortunately, news that the Minnesota Department of Transportation may have to scale back the Hastings bridge replacement is no joke. (If you missed the story, it is on Page 5A).

Still, you can't help but laugh at the developments. It's just that bizarre.

Last year, we were told the money was secure. The bridge replacement was a go. By the summer of 2010, work would be under way.

Then came The Great Deepcession. We've started driving less and spending less. And therefore, the state is taking less of our money. And therefore, the state has to cut.

You see where this is headed.

It's too early to panic. So far as we know, plans are moving forward for the replacement. We should know a lot more by May, when MnDOT releases its Capital Improvement Plan.

We're certainly hoping funding for the Hastings bridge replacement won't be cut, but at this point we're not sure.

So we're left wondering what in the world is going on.

$787 billion was recently doled out to states for projects. Those projects are safe from the cuts. So, MnDOT is going to proceed with 60 new construction, paving and bridge projects in greater Minnesota with that money from the federal government. More information will come soon on Metro projects.

According to the MnDOT Web site, the goal of the stimulus package is to "improve the nation's infrastructure."

Call us crazy, but we're thinking that the Hastings bridge is more important to our infrastructure than $100,000 worth of "living snow fence landscaping" near the Atkinson Bridge in Carlton County.

MnDOT had to choose projects that were ready to be done. Now.

One-half of the MnDOT projects "identified for stimulus funding must be ready" to go out for bids within 120 days, according to the MnDOT Web site. There's no way the Hastings bridge could go out for bids in 120 days.

It simply seems that states are being urged to burn through the money as quickly as possible. We must stimulate things, you know. And we must stimulate quickly.

By the looks of it, priorities are out the window. We just need projects that can be done immediately to burn through this pile of federal money.

Let's hope MnDOT comes up with a way to use some of the federal money to cover its revenue shortfall. Let's hope the bridge funding is safe and that this nervousness wasn't well-founded. It's too early to tell for sure. Just the mere possibility that the bridge could be put off, again, is astounding.