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Pricetag for bridge grows: MnDOT to pay $2.1 million to speed up construction

The price for the new Hastings bridge just went up by at least $2.4 million.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation agreed last week to pay the contractor in the project $2.1 million for overtime to keep the project on schedule for a December 2013 completion.

In its early stages, the project was hit hard by delays due to weather and a state government shutdown. To make up for that lost time, MnDOT is paying out the overtime to the contractor, Lunda/Ames. In addition, the contractor can earn an incentive of $10,000 for every day four lanes of traffic are open before Dec. 13, 2013, up to $300,000.

"Ultimately, our goal in all of this is it to get the bridge done as safely and efficiently as possible," said MnDOT communications director Kevin Gutknecht. "There are a lot of people who drive on that road. A lot of people who want to use that roadway and a lot of people who want to see the bridge open. These two payments ... are ways we can help make that happen faster."

Originally the project was to be completed by May 2013, but high water in the fall of 2010, high water in the spring and summer of 2011 and the state government shutdown all forced delays out of the contractor's control, Gutknecht said.

To reimburse the contractor for its expenses during that period, MnDOT will pay $342,000.

Once the dust settled from the shutdown, it appeared as though the project wouldn't be complete until May 2014, as the steel mill in Wisconsin had to push the Hastings bridge back. There were no MnDOT inspectors available to oversee the work during the shutdown.

A unique agreement between MnDOT, the contractors and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allowed for the shipping lane on the Mississippi River to be shut down for three days in September as the main span was moved into place. That agreement made it possible for the project's completion date to be moved up to December 2013.

Traffic is scheduled to be moved onto two lanes of the new bridge in May 2013. Once that occurs, the current bridge will be dismantled and hauled away. That will make it possible for crews to construct the final two lanes of the project.

Gutknecht said that the contractor's bonus will be paid for every day four lanes of traffic are open on the new bridge. There will still be working continuing at the bridge site until about May 2014, but the roadway will be open.

More claims could still arise

While the completion date (at least for the roadway) is now established, the final cost still can't be nailed down just yet.

Lunda/Ames has until the completion of the project to file a claim to be reimbursed for anything related to the shutdown. There aren't any claims pending, but the potential does exist for them to do so.

If Lunda/Ames had any expenses preparing for the shutdown, costs accrued during the shutdown or any after the shutdown, they could seek to be compensated for them.

"It would be difficult to say if there's going to be a claim or not, but the potential does exist," Gutknecht said.