Bridge project anticipation causes unnecessary worries

Allison Mueller

Emily Dean/ Winonan

Construction on the new Highway 43 bridge, adjacent upstream to the existing bridge, could start as early as this week, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The two-bridge project will allow the already standing bridge to be rehabilitated, after a new bridge is erected for permanent use.

Some students, however, fear the project may cause issues with their daily commutes.

Contrary to commuters’ beliefs, project manager Terry Ward said students will not have to worry about the existing bridge closing until 2016 when they will be doing safety improvements.

Ward said the bridge will include a brand new 12-foot bike trail along with overlooks and walking paths, as well as more safety features to prevent accidents at the current three-way stop.

The new bridge will already be built at this time, so students will not have to drive to La Crosse to get into Winona.

Ward said there would be little impact on commuters. They plan to do most construction during non-commuting hours of the day so there will be little delay, if any.

Because there will be a second bridge, traffic will be able to keep flowing at all times.

Students like Megan Hurlburt, a junior at Winona State University, expressed her concerns about this project as a student who commutes daily from Fountain City, Wis.

“If they close the bridge, it could take an hour or more to get to school,” Hurlburt said.  “If they close the bridge, I will be spending more time driving to school and less time studying.”

Hurlburt drives a half hour each day and was worried the construction could set her back financially as well.

“Gas is expensive for a college student and driving out of my way for school would mean more money,” Hulburt said.

The last time the bridge closed the only access way to get into Winona was to go through La Crosse or Wabasha, Hurlburt said.

Not only does construction affect Winona State students, but many other students and community members as well.

Desiree Koenig, a student who commutes to both Western Technical College in La Crosse and Southeast Technical College in Winona, knows the struggles of commuting through construction.

“I commute about 400 miles a week going to and from school,” Koenig said.

Koenig also expressed concerns about bridge closures and detours.

“I feel like the construction is going to set everyone back, and we are going to have detours for a solid year,” Koenig said. “It’ll be an extra hour of driving time, so your whole day will start an hour early and end hour later.”

Students are encouraged to forget their worries as a detour will not be needed.

“Once Highway 43 traffic is switched to the new structure, the existing bridge will be rehabilitated and reconstructed,” Ward said.