Another (unplanned) detour!

Staff photo by Fritz Busch Gateway New Ulm project contractors remove defective concrete I-beams from the 7th North Street bridge and secure them on long semi trailers Wednesday. New I-beams are expected to arrive Friday and Saturday, according to Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) engineers.

NEW ULM — The two-year, $35-million Highway 14/15 New Ulm Gateway Project got another detour recently when Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) inspectors discovered a defect in the long concrete I-beams recently laid on the Front Street bridge.

“It didn’t take too long to determine there was something amiss. Steel plates with a unique bearing assembly and expansion device in the beams were not working,” said MnDOT District 7 Construction Supervisor Todd Kjolstad.

“A steel plate that allows the assembly to slide was the wrong size,” Kjolstad said. “We’re replacing seven beams with the correct sole plate dimension. We expect new ones in Friday and Saturday so we can begin the decking process in earnest next week.”

In addition, Kjolstad said the bridge’s unique bearing assembly allows it to expand or contract by sliding on a teflon and steel plate.

“All bridges have to be able to expand or contract or they would break,” Kjolstad said. “Rather than moving up and down, this bridge will slide, somewhat uphill, at the west end of it.”

Kjolstad said since the defective beams were at the west end of the 626-foot, five-span bridge, contractors are working at the east end of the bridge in the meantime.

Contractors were busy Wednesday removing the defective I-beams with a large crane, securing the long beams and hauling them out of town on long semi trailers.

“We think we can make it up (lost time) in the decking process,” Kjolstad said. “We recognize it as a error by the Wisconsin manufacturer who will pay additional costs. It’s very unusual. In my 30-plus years with MnDOT, I haven’t seen this happen before.”

The project that began in December 2017 with preliminary work includes three bridges, 7th North Streetscape and landscaping. The Front Street and Minnesota River bridges will have two lanes but can be expanded to four lanes at a later date.

An interchange at the intersection of U.S. Highway 14, State Highway 15 and Nicollet County Road 21 will include new traffic lanes and roundabouts. City watermain and sanitary sewers were replaced on 7th North Street.

Highways 14 and 15 will be raised above the 100-year flood elevation. A bike and walking trail on the north side of the highway from German Street to the 14-15 interchange will be added.

The project was designed to address intersection safety, aging bridges, pavement conditions and occasional road flooding. Project benefits include increased highway corridor safety, capacity and interregional trade.

The Highway 14 four-lane expansion project from New Ulm to Nicollet remains unfunded and unscheduled. However, designs created by local task forces are moving forward in hopes of future funding.

For more information including a detour video and many links, visit

Fritz Busch can be emailed at