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Equipment failure causes problem during construction of new Hastings bridge

The framework for a large cofferdam is pictured above. It was being lowered into the river by a crane on Wednesday when a cable broke. Nobody was injured in the incident. The failure will mean a one-week setback for crews.

A broken cable caused a problem Wednesday afternoon for crews building the new Hastings bridge.

Construction is well under way on the project, including work on the massive piers that will support the new bridge. It was while work was being done on one of the piers that the problem surfaced.

Much of the work taking place right now has to do with cofferdams, which are essentially watertight compartments that run from the bottom of the river to the surface. The cofferdams are about 90-feet by 30-feet and allow crews access to the bottom of the river in order to pour footings for the bridge.

Crews were lowering the framework for one of those cofferdams when the equipment failed. It is believed that a cable on one piece of equipment failed.

The framework fell, but is being supported by temporary pilings in the river. While those pilings are supporting the framework, they've also been knocked out of place because of the incident. They will be removed from the river and new ones will be driven.

A new barge and a new crane are being brought to the river to work with the one already in place. The two barge-mounted-cranes will lift the framework out of the water and place it on a floating barge nearby. The framework will have to be realigned.

Nobody was injured in the incident.

Steve Kordosky, the project manager with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said that the whole incident will cause a one-week delay for crews, but won't affect the long-term construction of the bridge, which will be open in full by the end of May 2013.

"With the pier construction, we certainly want to get up and out of the river before the high water comes in the spring," he said. "The pier construction here, Pier 6, is not on the critical path of the project. This won't impact the contracted completion schedule at all.

"This is just part of building a project. We're prepared for things to go wrong."

Safety is continually stressed by MnDOT and the two firms working on the project, Lunda Construction and Ames Construction, Kordosky said.

"We're committed to safety on this project," he said. "We have weekly safety meetings. You look at these sorts of things and plan ahead for them. We're committed to building a safe and quality project."