by MaryAnne Block
A new bridge will be built across Hwy. 75 between St. Joseph and Waite Park; the old one will be torn down in December and the new one won’t open until late June 2024.
Work will begin this November, and the building of the new bridge will take place during the months of January through March of next year.
Lunda Bridge Builders of Wisconsin won the construction bid at $4.7 million. The project will be funded with federal money (congressional directed spending funds, previously called earmarked funds), plus state and local (Stearns County) money.
“This is a fairly rare winter bridge construction project,” said Stearns County Assistant Engineer Mike Decker during an interview with the Newsleaders. “Winter work is is not actually unusual but not often done in this county.”
The reason for the winter build, Decker said, is partly due to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which has established certain exclusionary dates for fish spawning.
During the winter structural water work, new pilings will be put in. After that is completed, the above-water construction can begin, causing no disruption during fish spawning as the weather warms, Decker added.
He noted another reason for the winter build is because of the high-traffic use in the area. This will allow for the bridge project to be completed before many of the summer construction projects begin, allowing smooth traffic flow for all projects, he added.
During construction, detours will be required. Traffic from St. Joseph will have two basic choices. One option is to travel north (using County Roads 134, 3 or 2) to County Road 4 (Veterans Drive) before returning south to Division Street in St. Cloud, which leads west to Hwy. 75.
A second option would be to use Hwy. 121 (College Avenue East) to County Road 138, which will bring traffic to the Fleet Farm area.
In order to maintain business access of Modern Barnyard and Opie’s Heating and Cooling (an area just west of the bridge) during construction, the center concrete median will be removed to allow for turns for traffic. After the bridge project is completed, the concrete median will be re-installed.