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Bridge preview: United Way gets first look at new bridge

The United Way of Hastings coordinated a pre-opening bridge walk over the new bridge Friday. Several people donned "Live United" T-shirts, reflective vests and hard hats to set foot on the bridge, many of them for the first time. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)1 / 4
(Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)2 / 4
Two of the four lanes were almost ready for traffic Friday. Once all four lanes are open, these two lanes will both carry southbound traffic over the river. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)3 / 4
Walkers pose for a group photo near the middle of the new bridge. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)4 / 4

At midday Friday, May 31, a few dozen people gathered downtown to take advantage of a special opportunity. The United Way of Hastings coordinated a bridge walk event, giving the Hastings business community a first-hand look at the city's new landmark.

The walk happened just days before traffic moved from the old bridge onto the westernmost two lanes of the new bridge. There was still work to be done, so walkers were given reflective vests and hard hats to keep them safe in the construction zone.

Several community and business leaders attended the event, as did Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, and Sen. Katie Sieben, D-Cottage Grove.

Sieben had gotten a couple tours of the bridge prior to Friday's event, but it was still exciting to walk out on it, she said.

"Seeing it this near completion is exhilarating," she said.

McNamara had a similar reaction.

"This is really cool," he said.

The bridge walk highlighted the strong Hastings community, according to both legislators. McNamara noted how blessed Hastings is to have the strong business community it does. Sieben said the walk was symbolic of the hard work put in by the local coalition that lobbied for bridge funding.

"We all worked so hard to get the funding for this," she said.

McNamara looked ahead to the future, as he hopes to see funds for a pedestrian bridge across the railroad tracks north of the bridge included in next year's state bonding bill. The new bridge has a pedestrian walkway, but currently there is no continuation of the path north of the bridge, forcing pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate the shoulder of the highway over the railroad bridge.