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Open house laid out details of new bridge

A three-dimensional scale model of the new Hastings bridge was unveiled at the groundbreaking ceremony last Wednesday. The model depicts the main span and arches, but does not include the approaches. The model will be given to the city when construction is completed

More than 200 people walked through City Hall last Wednesday, Sept. 22, to learn all about what's in store for the new bridge.

The open house offered residents an opportunity to talk directly with those involved in the project and give their feedback on the plans. It also provided a venue for suggestions on a few elements, such as the color and the custom mural to be installed under the south end of the bridge.

Visual quality

The most interactive element of the open house was the visual quality table, which gave ideas of how the lighting and coloring of the bridge could look.

Four lighting concepts for the main span were displayed on posters. The most popular, said lighting consultant Ken Douglas, was a concept that lights the underside of the arch.

"There have been lots of positive comments about the lighting," Douglas said.

The color of the bridge also has yet to be decided. Twelve small posters showed the bridge with varying paint jobs. Using the posters, visual quality manager Brad Touchstone conducted an impromptu survey, asking the public to stick a small flag on the color they liked best.

"There's clearly a preference for something in blue," he said.

Not only could people choose from the 12 printed options, but they also got to select their own custom color, thanks to an interactive computer model that allowed them to see how any shade would look on the new design. Once they found one they liked, Touchstone saved it to be considered in the decision-making process.

Nuts and bolts

Physical layout was addressed, with table-sized plans spread out to show exactly where the structure will fit alongside the existing bridge and how it will meet the roads.

A concrete barrier will separate the north- and southbound lanes on the bridge and extend north of the bridge. On the north side, a road will be constructed that loops underneath the span to connect the two marinas there. Traffic will no longer be able to turn into Captain's Bay from the southbound lanes, or into Hub's from the northbound lanes. That work is expected to be done in 2012.

In 2011, work will begin on the south side. The new bridge approach there will shift slightly to the west.

The most popular question at the event was how traffic will be affected during construction, said Minnesota Department of transportation public affairs coordinator J.P. Gillach. The impact will be minimal, as the existing bridge will remain open until traffic can be shifted onto the new bridge. There may be temporary lane closures in off peak hours to accommodate construction and for Mn/DOT's annual bridge inspection.

Protecting history

Because the bridge project will require the use of heavy construction equipment, workers have to keep in mind the effect heavy equipment vibrations could have on the historic buildings near the construction site. Senior materials engineer Kurt Berglund talked about the vibration monitors that will be placed around the buildings.

Pre-project readings will be recorded to establish the amount of background vibrations already going through the area from traffic. The buildings will be evaluated to find their tolerances. As construction proceeds, multiple monitors will warn workers if vibrations get too intense. If that happens, workers will have to stop and look for another way to do their work without rattling the buildings too much, Berglund said.

Creating a work of art

Artist Craig David was also at the open house. David has been selected to construct a stone mural under the southern end of the bridge. He brought four concept paintings of some ideas he's had for the mural, but they're by no means finalized.

"These are still in conceptual stage," he said.

He's still looking for ideas - specifically, he's looking for stories he can tell through the image, he said. The four concepts on display all had similar themes. They were filled with images of people - no one specific - from farmers and kids skipping rocks to dock workers and shadows meant to hint at the depression era.

A few concepts are sure to make it into the final mural.

"They'll be pretty much based off the theme of the rivers," David explained.

The stories in the mural will be woven together into a massive collage. Structures also play a big role, especially those of the three bridges that have defined the city for so long.

"People are very concerned the arch gets portrayed," David said.

To submit your ideas for the mural, e-mail David at