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MnDOT works toward consensus on Milan Bridge

MILAN -- A consultant is being brought on board to help the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Milan-area residents come to a consensus on whether to replace or rehabilitate the Milan Bridge spanning Lac qui Parle Lake.

Milan Bridge
The Minnesota Department of Transportation hired a consultant to lead it and Milan residents to a consensus on the Milan Bridge, which spans Lac qui Parle Lake. MnDOT had planned to refurbish the bridge, as it is a historic structure, but area residents and community leaders say it needs to be completely replaced for safety and transportation. (File | Tribune)

MILAN - A consultant is being brought on board to help the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Milan-area residents come to a consensus on whether to replace or rehabilitate the Milan Bridge spanning Lac qui Parle Lake.
The goal remains to make a decision by the spring of 2016 on which course to take, MnDOT reported in a project update released Thursday.
MnDOT staff has been meeting and will continue to meet with a variety of area stakeholders, from farmers to representatives of the Lac qui Parle Valley School, to gather input as well. MnDOT was planning to award bids to rehabilitate the bridge on Minnesota Highway 40 in May, but put the project on hold.
Citizens packed the Milan City Council chambers to voice their objections at a meeting in April.
Since then, 11 different governmental units in the area, including county boards, school boards and city councils have approved resolutions or sent letters to MnDOT urging that the bridge be replaced rather than rehabilitated.
The resolution cites safety concerns focused on the transportation of students across the bridge during adverse weather conditions. At the April hearing, many citizens also argued that the 1938 bridge with its steel truss is inadequate for modern farm and transportation needs. MnDOT had estimated that it would cost $2.6 million to rehabilitate the bridge. The bridge is designated as a historic structure. Federal law requires that MnDOT rehabilitate rather than replace historic structures unless there is “no feasible and prudent alternative,’’ according to information presented in April.
If a decision is made to replace the bridge, MnDOT will need to convince the State Historic Preservation Office that rehabilitation would not meet the purpose and need of the project and that replacement is the only viable option, according to MnDOT. A decision to replace the bridge would also require MnDOT to obtain a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.
MnDOT is in the process of calculating an estimated cost for replacing the bridge.
If a decision is made to replace the bridge, MnDOT would need to find additional funding as the project costs would be greater. The funds currently allocated for rehabilitation are part of a state bonding bill and must be committed by a date in 2018, according to Susann Karnowski, assistant district engineer with MnDOT in Willmar.

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