State transportation officials will pay nearly $2.1 million to the contractor of the new Hastings bridge for overtime and other expenses necessary to get the bridge open by December 2013 after flooding and the state government shutdown caused delays last year.

In a settlement signed last week, the state acknowledged that the $120 million bridge project was delayed 12 months by Mississippi River flooding in the spring of 2011, followed in July by the 20-day state government shutdown, said Kevin Gutknecht, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation (MnDOT).

To reduce the delay in opening the bridge to six months, the state will pay the contractor, Lunda/Ames Joint Venture, nearly $2.1 million to accelerate construction and ensure the four-lane bridge opens by Dec. 13, 2013.

"We used accelerated bridge construction to minimize the impact to the public," said MnDOT deputy commissioner Bernie Arseneau, as he watched workers prepare to hoist the 6.6-million-pound main span atop piers on Sept. 23.

MnDOT also agreed to pay $342,681 to settle the contractor's claim for extra costs it incurred to stop and restart construction after the 20-day state shutdown. There are no other claims pending, but the contractor has the right to file claims for extra costs until the project is finalized, Gutknecht said. The claim payment won't be made until the bridge's "substantial completion" date on July 7, 2014, the agreement says.

The project started in October 2010.

MnDOT project manager Steve Kordosky said the total $2.4 million in extra costs are relatively minor on a $120 million project. He noted big construction projects often have cost overruns due to unexpected circumstances.

The joint venture can earn a bonus of up to $300,000 by getting the four lanes open before the 2013 deadline. The agreement says for each day the lanes are open early, Lunda/Ames can earn a $10,000 incentive for up to 30 days. If the contractor misses the deadline, the joint venture pays damages to the state.

The bridge will initially open in May for two lanes, one in each direction. At that point the old bridge, a 60-year-old structure, will be closed and dismantled to provide space for the last two lanes to be added to the new bridge, Gutknecht said.

MnDOT says the 545-foot long main span will be the longest free-standing twin-arch bridge in North America. The 98-foot-tall bridge is expected to last 100 years.

Jim Adams • 952-746-3283