After eight years and tangled delays, the end is in sight for construction on the Wakota Bridge spanning the Mississippi River on Interstate 494 in the southeast metro.

The $300 million project expanding the bridge to five lanes in both east and west directions will be done by the end of July, the Washington County Board was told on Tuesday. That's about three years later than the initial expected completion date.

"Hey, it's a happy day," said Commissioner Myra Peterson, who has been involved with overseeing the project since she was elected to the board in 1993. "It's been a long haul."

The original bridge, a robin's egg-blue, arched steel girder landmark near the old South St. Paul stockyards, opened in 1959.

"It wasn't built to freeway standards, it was built to state highway standards," Peterson said. "It was part of the old Highway 100 system."

While the bridge was always sound, its four lanes couldn't handle the 80,000 vehicles a day that crossed the river between Washington and Dakota counties when it became part of I-494.

Construction on the replacement bridge began in 2002, but was complicated by the involvement of federal and state agencies, two counties and road improvements in seven cities.

Construction was halted temporarily in 2004 when the half-completed west span was found to have stress cracks in the concrete. Work stalled for more than a year on the eastbound span because of a redesign and the fact that the Minnesota Department of Transportation decided to rebid the contract.

The old bridge was dismantled in 2006 after serving as a detour before the west span was completed.

"What's unfortunate is that, by 2030, it will be congested again," Peterson said.

That's why the county's newest transit push is completion of the Red Rock Corridor, a commuter train line linking Hastings and St. Paul running roughly parallel with Highway 61.

Jim Anderson • 612-673-7199