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Hastings bridge will close over two weekends

Consider this fair warning: the Hastings bridge will be closed June 13-15 and June 20-22. Both lanes. All weekend long.

That was one of the biggest pieces of news that came out of last Thursday's public meeting on the bridge.

Those dates are not set in stone, as weather could still play a role. But as it looks right now, those are the two weekends for the work.

The bridge would close from 9 p.m. Friday, June 13 until 5:30 a.m. Monday, June 16; the same schedule would be repeated June 20-23.

During those two weekends, work will be done on the bearings. The bridge will actually be lifted about half an inch to an inch to allow for the work to be done.

During the full closure, the bridge will still be open to emergency vehicles.

What else came out of the meeting?

Here are some of the highlights:

• On or near June 1, the sidewalk on the bridge will be closed as crews begin work on the east side of the bridge. No pedestrian traffic will be allowed to cross the bridge. This includes bicyclists.

• The next meeting about the bridge is planned for 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 18 at City Hall.

• The Minnesota Department of Transportation is working on a study for the new bridge. They plan to have a third meeting this fall. MnDOT hopes to complete its draft report on the new bridge in September. The draft would include the two or three most feasible options for a new bridge.

• It was confirmed the new bridge will be at least four lanes wide.

• It was also confirmed that the new bridge will be located where the current one is.

That led those in attendance to start looking at the maps in an effort to figure out where the new bridge would be located. If the new structure is four lanes wide, where would the turn-around be to get back to Second Street, one business owner asked.

Engineers from MnDOT said it was too early to say. The business owner, though, said that with City Hall on the east side of Highway 61, there would be no way that the turnaround would be located there. That leaves business owners along the west side of Highway 61 unsure about their future, especially those businesses located between Second and Fourth streets.

One business owner at the meeting was Tom Reinardy. He owns Spiral Pizza and Tubby's Bar and Grill.

"It's going to go to the west side (of Highway 61)" he said of the new bridge's location. "I guarantee you, it's not going to go on the east side."

Both of Reinardy's businesses could be saved. Both could be long gone in two years. It's this period of uncertainty that is challenging for him.

"I want to find out all this as soon as I can," he said. "This is a life-altering thing."

Reinardy also had questions about the timeframe. To think that the plans will materialize and all the land will be acquired in just two years seems like a tall order to him.

"I really don't see how they're going to get it done this quick," Reinardy said.