MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Drivers in the south metro are spending twice as long in traffic because of bridge work near Mall of America.
For the first time in almost 30 years, the Highway 77 bridge over the Minnesota River is getting a facelift.
MnDOT crews shut down the bridge on its northbound side completely until 5:00 a.m. June 29.
Before this, the southbound side was shut down for 10 days.
Shuttle bus driver Jack Wiebke says it is making his job of shuttling tourists from Eagan hotels to Minneapolis-St. Pail International Airport very difficult.
“Today was the worst day I’ve had in 8 years,” Wiebke said on Monday.
With the Minnesota River Crossing bridge closed, Wiebke says he has tried many alternatives from Interstate-35W to Interstate-494, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference.
“It took me more than an hour and 10 minutes to get to the airport when I can usually do it in 15 minutes,” he said.
MnDOT spokesperson Kirsten Klein says the 30-year-old bridge has no major problems but needs its first round of big improvements.
“We are replacing bridge joints,” she said.
They help the bridge expand and contract during warm or cold weather.
She says it isn’t uncommon for a bridge to last decades without these routine improvements.
“We try to do these replacements every 20-30 years,” Klein said.
The tarp over the bridge helps crews work on the $3.5 million project through the rain. It also helps with painting.
Klein says MnDOT considered keeping at least one lane open on either side during maintenance, but it would’ve taken longer.
“Instead of the 10 days for each side it would’ve been six weeks,” Klein said.
MnDOT inspects all of its bridges yearly.
Klein said construction projects on Interstate-35E near St. Paul and Highway 5 near the airport also have some lane closures, which aren’t helping the commute time.
“It is frustrating, but everyone in the area will have to plan extra time for their commutes for the next week,” Klein said.