Elton Hill’s Bridge Project – Rochester, Your Questions Answered
Social media in Rochester Minnesota has once again, been filled to the brim with outrage. Did a child get hurt? More catalytic converter thefts? Did Mayor Norton sneeze?
Nope. They started fixing the Elton Hills Bridge near Rochester Minnesota's Rec Center while the Broadway project was still going.
The Hell You Say!? How Dare They!
Honestly, yes, that's how it seemed. Plenty of great responses saying, "Oh, dear, the bridge is being fixed, how awful for you." But I felt that as much as I like snark (see the beginning of this story, please), it would do more to benefit Rochesterarians if I got in touch with the CIty of Rochester Minnesota to see what's happenin'.
What The Heck Is Up with the Elton Hills Bridge Project!?
I got in touch with Dillon Dombrovski, PE, the Deputy Public Works Director and City Engineer for the City of Rochester, Minnesota. Turns out he went to school with my nephew Jim Nevela, but trust me, that did not blunt my hot arrow of truth seekingness.
JR - First of all, Dillon, why wasn't this done years ago? Wasn't it four or five years ago we found out about the bridge's problems?
DD - Three years ago we discovered the structural issues (as we were) doing repairs to the pier cap. There was some concrete that was coming off in chunks, so we had a small maintenance project sort of preservation project plan to that pier. And as the contractor was working on that small project, they saw some cracking that wasn't normal. Wasn't typical.
The problem was on the left and right sides of the bridge, but the middle was sound, so they blocked off all but the two inner lanes.
JR - Can I assume that it's out of warranty now, and that's why we couldn't go back and sue anyone for making it poorly?
DD - Yeah. And obviously, the bridge stood for 50 years, 50 plus years, and...we're fortunate that we caught it and we didn't have some sort of tragic event. And now that we have the funding, we can rebuild it
JR - Bigger, stronger, better, bionic
DD - Yeah. There's no reason it shouldn't be able to last a hundred years, as long as we're doing the ongoing maintenance and preservation that's necessary to carry it all through that lifetime.
Why Start When Broadway Isn't Finished?
JR - So why start now when Broadway is still a mess?
DD - So we had it in the CIP for this year because...
JR - What CIP stand for?
DD - Sorry. Yeah. I'm using acronyms...capital improvement plan CIP. We program a six-year plan. And this was in 2021 because we have federal funds that need to be expended. We have to start the project in 2021. So as a team we talked through, we have this major project Broadway, we have another major project,
Elton Hills drive bridge. They're very close in proximity. It's really gonna kinda make a lot of inconvenience for anyone trying to get through that area.
So we elected to delay the start of the Elton Hills Drive Bridge project because you can do bridgework in the winter...
But, he went on to say, you can't get the 2021 funding back if you don't start in 2021 and the whole project should be buttoned up by early July 2022.
What About the Corn on the Cob Water Tower?
JR - Dillon, I've heard people complain, "Well you can do the corn water tower, but you can't do the bridge!?" Does the county have anything, does the county have anything to do with the Elton Hills bridge?
DD - They do not. That's a city street, city-owned infrastructure. So that's our responsibility, right?
DD said he knows how much of a mess the overlapping projects make for folks, but please, be patient. Follow the signage. Be kind to the other drivers, the construction workers, and yourself.
You can also follow along with the Elton Hills Bridge project online - there is a ton of info, budgets, and updates. Plus, this nifty video.
One last quick thing I had to ask Dillon...I mean, it was my big chance.
JR - "Could you, uh...could you create some kind of turkey barrier for 6th Street Southwest. Help keep Lyle Turkey from the cars?"
DD - Oh. that's funny...
JR - So can you...
DD - Yeah. That's not something we learned in engineering school.
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