High water levels impact Winona bridge construction - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

High water levels impact Winona bridge construction

WINONA, Minn. (WXOW) - The Winona Bridge project was set to start in June, a month ahead of schedule. Now construction crews are crossing their fingers for a start date before the end of July.

“Right now we're really in a holding pattern with the river,” said Terry Ward, MN DOT Project Manager for the Winona Bridge Project. “We're ready to go. We're ready to start construction. We just need the river to go back down to normal levels.”

Right now the Mississippi River at Winona is about 2.5 feet above flood stage. Before the water levels drop, it's not even safe for some crews to start work.

“If we're able to get going in July, there's still time to accomplish our goals,” said Ward. “To try and get the critical river piers up and out of harm's way by next spring. So we can stay out of the way of flooding and keep working on construction.”

To finish this part of the project on schedule, and prevent additional set-backs with spring flooding next year, construction crews will have to work through the winter. But Ward said it's better than the alternative.

“Winter work is expensive,” said Ward. “Winter work is not as efficient and effective as working during the dry summer months, however... We made a business decision that we are likely going to work this first winter and pay that premium for the overall benefit of trying to get this new bridge open to traffic as quickly as possible.”

Based on the current river stage, Ward said the earliest they could start construction is in two weeks. But this date could be pushed back if there's additional rain or run-off into the Mississippi.

By the end of the month if river levels are still too high to start construction, they'll start looking at ways to speed up the construction process, like having people work weekends or overtime shifts.

The new bridge is being constructed 50 feet upstream from the current Hwy-43 bridge, and will take traffic outbound from Winona. The current Hwy. 43 bridge will be left standing, and will be upgraded to take take inbound traffic into Winona.

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