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Pile driving to continue through winter for new bridge

Construction has begun on the new Hastings bridge, but it will still be a while before there's much to see. The pile driving process will continue until March or April, said project coordinator Steve Kordosky.

Pile driving is the foundation-laying process for bridges. Crews have to sink piles deep enough so that they're embedded with enough friction and resistance to hold up the weight of the bridge, said Mn/DOT public affairs coordinator J.P. Gillach.

Forty of the 120 12-inch-thick ground improvement pilings are already in place on the north shore, Kordosky said, and should be finished in the next month.

"They hope to have those all driven by about Dec. 1," he said.

Ground improvement piling will take some of the load off the widening roadway, he explained. Without them, the new road would settle once it's built. In order to support the weight, they have to be placed 160 to 190 feet below the surface.

The next part of the project is driving larger piles into the river. There will be 70 of those, each one 42 inches in diameter. Each one will be placed 180 feet below the surface.

"The water came up on us a couple of times, and we're hoping to maybe get at it late this week, maybe next week," Kordosky said.

Crews will drive three test piles and place test loads on them to make sure they'll be able to support the weight they'll need to. Once testing is completed, they'll put in cofferdams (enclosures designed to create a dry work environment) and start putting in the production piles. That process is expected to last into March or April, Kordosky said.

Once pilings are completed on the north bank, soil will be brought in to compact the underlying earth before the roadway embankment comes in. Crews hope to see that done before winter sets in.

"They want to get that in here while the weather's still cooperating," Kordosky said.

The visual quality team is also working to narrow down the bridge color. The team is narrowing down the choices to three, which have not been released yet. VQT members will then take the colors out to the public to get feedback and bring back what they hear to the full team, which will then make a final decision. Visual quality work is scheduled to be completed around the end of this year.

Anyone interested in learning more about the bridge project can attend a Bridge Chat, hosted by Mn/DOT. This week's chat will be held from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 11, at Dunn Bros. Other chats will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 15 and Dec. 20, at Benny's Grill and Coffee Shop; and at 9 a.m. Nov. 24 and Dec. 22, at Emily's Bakery and Deli.