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Maintenance work continues on First Street Bridge in Willmar, Minn.

Crews with Willmar Public Works and the Minnesota Department of Transportation work Tuesday on the First Street Bridge in Willmar. The crews are performing maintenance work that will restrict motorists' use of the bridge for a few more days. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR -- Motorists driving over Willmar's First Street Bridge have been dealing with two fewer lanes to use since Monday.

That situation could continue for several more days because of maintenance by city and state workers.

"The city doesn't have a bridge crew," said T.J. Melcher, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation District 8, based in Willmar. "So we're showing city workers what to do."

In seven years, when the next round of maintenance work will be done, MnDOT workers will be there to help.

But Willmar's crew will have the lead, Melcher said.

The district's bridge crew also brings resources to the project that Willmar and many other cities might not have -- from the 100 or more orange cones used to designate the working area to an industrial-sized, twin-tank epoxy applicator used to fill cracks in the bridge's surface.

Work has included brushing the surface clean, sealing cracks and treating the entire surface with a sealant. Workers also removed rubber seals from the bridge's four expansion joints and cleaned the joints in preparation for new seals.

Don VanHauen, MnDOT transportation specialist, said the plan was to switch from one side of the bridge to the other -- completing that preparation on each side and still keeping two lanes open to traffic throughout the work.

Once those steps have been completed on both sides of the bridge, the crews will install new seals in the expansion joints, two lanes at a time, VanHauen said.

"It's simple, but everything takes time," he added.

Add the unpredictability of Minnesota weather, which Melcher said is taken into consideration in scheduling projects, and work on the bridge will be complete sometime next week.

Gary Miller

Born and attended public schools in Willmar, Minn. Served 20 years in U.S. Navy as a photojournalist. Worked at West Central Tribune since retiring from the Navy in 1994.

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