Rainy River bridge project progressing well

Sam Odrowski

In a little under a year, Baudette and Rainy River residents will be able to cross the border on a brand new bridge.

The $30 million replacement bridge project is a joint effort by Ontario and Minnesota that commenced about six years ago, and while construction only began last autumn, it’s estimated to be completed for July of 2020.

“We’re looking into the timeline and the duration of the removal of the existing bridge,” noted Joesph McKinnon, Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) project manager.

“The contractor is . . . doing some more analysis of methods to demolish the bridge.”

Demolition of the old bridge is estimated to take three to four months and will commence after the completion of the replacement bridge, next July.

Rainy River CAO Veldron Vogan said after the I-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis in 2007, killing 13 people and injuring 145, MnDOT inspected all bridges in the state and assessed their lifespans.

It was determined that the condition of the Baudette/Rainy River International Bridge was poor and in need of replacement, as it was nearing the end of its useable life.

“The functionality of it was kind of decreasing too because you’d kind of go up over a hump,” explained Vogan.

“The new one will be a straight line with nothing overtop or anything that might inhibit some of the bigger vehicles.”

The current phase of the project involves constructing multiple piers, which act as concrete supports under the bridge, as well as two concrete abutments, on both sides of the river
“There are four concrete piers in the river that are under construction at this time, two are on the Minnesota side and two are on the Ontario side,” McKinnon said.

“They just recently this month started working more on the two Canadian piers and the Canadian abutment on the Canadian shore.”

Primary contractor for the project, Lunba Construction Ltd., recently faced a small hiccup when drilling holes into the river bottom to construct foundation piers.

“A lot of large boulders have been encountered and that has slowed some progress,” McKinnon noted.

“Having the augers remove those boulders has been, at times, a slow progress but they have been able to do that.”

This has resulted in some small added expenses to the project.

“They’ve looked at some different techniques to remove some of the boulders, so that’s encountered some overruns but not large,” McKinnon explained.

The next phase for the project is the underground construction of drilled shafts.

“Once they complete the underground construction of those then they construct the concrete piers, so they extend out of the water to the proper height and that’s to continue throughout this summer and fall,” McKinnon remarked.

“Then, also in the fall, they plan to have the delivery of the steel beams that will span across all of the piers for the entire 1,200 foot long bridge.”

Over the winter of this year construction will pause and recommence for the spring of 2020, at which time the contractor will start pouring the new concrete deck onto the bridge’s steel beams.

McKinnon is pleased with the project’s progress and lauded the joint effort undertaken by Ontario and Minnesota

“The state of Minnesota and the province of Ontario have been working together on it for the whole six years,” he noted.

“That’s been a very good working relationship, that the state and the province have had.”