MN-WI St. Croix River bridge project plagued by labor, material shortages delayed 1 year

Dive Brief:

  • The new, $676 million St. Croix River bridge connecting Wisconsin and Minnesota will not open until late 2017, one year after its initially scheduled completion date, according to the Star Tribune.
  • Minnesota and Wisconsin transportation officials said equipment failures, labor and material shortages, weather delays, and the complexity of building a 3,200-foot bridge across a federally protected river have all contributed to the delay. The road portions leading to the bridge in both states, however, remain on schedule.
  • State agencies have said they are not considering legal action against the general contractor, the Lunda/Ames Joint Venture, at this time and are in negotiations with the companies to determine the most cost-effective and efficient way to complete the project, according to the Star Tribune. Officials said they are not certain how much the delay could add to the cost of the bridge.

Dive Insight:

Last summer, J&L Steel, the original fabricator for the project, left the job after complaining that designs for steel framing were flawed, resulting in the same work being done repeatedly, the Star Tribune reported. At the time, the Minnesota Department of Transportation said it was Lunda/Ames’ responsibility to effectively communicate the bridge design.

The St. Croix bridge project has faced the same labor shortages many other contractors are experiencing as the economy rebounds and construction activity picks up. 

Material shortages have also plagued the job. The concrete form manufacturing company’s owner died, according to the Star Tribune, and the company lost its lead engineer, which delayed the project five months in 2014. Also, high water on the St. Croix River in 2014, along with an early winter that year, shortened the typical construction working season, although a mild fall in 2015 made it possible to make up some of those delays.

"We believe this new date is well within the project team’s capability to meet," Michael Beer, MnDOT’s project director, told the Star Tribune. "It is a large and complex project, and we want to be sure that it is done safely and meets our high standards for quality."

The last few months have brought other announcements of delays on high-profile bridge projects as well. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York said the $1.5 billion rehabilitation of New York City’s Verrazano Bridge will take approximately 25 years, and the "Raise the Roadway" Bayonne Bridge project will not be completed until two years after its original completion date.

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