Unsightly yes, but unsafe, no.

The new four-lane Hwy. 61 Hastings bridge over the Mississippi River opened just six months ago, but the concrete surface on the railings is already flaking.

"It's not visually appealing, but the bridge is safe," said Hastings Bridge project manager Steve Kordosky. "We've conducted visual inspections and taken core samples which are at a laboratory to detrmine what caused the scaling."

The peeling of the decorative railings came to light this week, but it was not immediately known when the problem began. MnDOT is working with the contractor to determine why it happened and how to fix it.

"It looks sort of like somebody who got sunburned and started to peel, but the rest of you is fine," said spokeswoman Kirsten Klein. "We know it looks ugly."

The $130 million bridge is under warranty, and MnDOT will address the problem later this year.

About 30,000 to 35,000 vehicles use the bridge each day, according to traffic counts.

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