Plans to replace the Highway 63 Eisenhower Bridge over the Mississippi River are advancing as the Minnesota Department of Transportation continues to gather local feedback on design options.

Among the latest developments is a decision to modify the approach road on the Wisconsin side of the river. MnDOT presented the concept at a listening session Tuesday night at City Hall.

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The “jug-handle” design would allow only right turns on and off Highway 63 at 825th Street just past the bridge in Wisconsin, MnDOT project manager Chad Hanson said.

Motorists coming from Minnesota looking to access Island Campground & Marina and nearby residences would turn right after crossing the river and follow a new service road that loops back under the bridge and connects to 825th Street.

Eliminating left-hand turns at the intersection should improve safety, Hanson said.

He added the design would still work if the new bridge - currently planned to stay a two-lane road - expanded to four lanes in the future.

Three options

MnDOT meanwhile is continuing to assess three bridge alternatives narrowed down from seven design options, Hanson said. The top candidates are a tied arch, segmental concrete box girder and steel box girder.

Similar to the new Highway 61 bridge in Hastings, a tied arch would be relatively complex to construct and inspect, but MnDOT said it would require the least amount of grading work.

A segmental concrete box girder would be easier to inspect, but would require a challenging 13-foot grade raise for approach roads. It is the only bridge of the three options that would not need periodic repainting, according to MnDOT.

A steel box girder has the most common construction of the alternatives; however, it also would require a complicated grade raise of around 10 feet.

Although officials said they have not determined the exact cost of the project, a tied arch bridge would be the most expensive of the three options. Concrete and steel girders have the lowest cost for the size of the bridge.

Downtown congestion

At stake in the project are traffic impacts to Red Wing and the surrounding region - as the Eisenhower Bridge is the only Mississippi River crossing for 30 miles in either direction.

Residents and local business owners talked Tuesday about congestion near the intersection of Plum Street and West Third Street, where a high volume of truck traffic coming off Highway 63 has been a problem for years.

Replacing the Eisenhower Bridge also will include replacing or renovating the attached Highway 61 overpass and approach road downtown, but Hanson said that part of the project is still going through a federal evaluation process.

A proposed “button hook” design for the overpass would provide a path for trucks coming from Wisconsin to go directly onto Highway 61 without first going down Plum Street, Hanson said. “Definitely that’s the preferred option for the community.”

Hanson said MnDOT hopes to select a structure type Highway 63 bridge early next year and begin working with the community to customize its appearance before construction in 2018.