Bridge construction gets underway next monthA $12.9 million, two-year interstate improvement project is expected to get underway in early May.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
A $12.9 million, two-year interstate improvement project is expected to get underway in early May.
While the actual start date is still being discussed with the contractor, Rainbow Inc. of Minneapolis, Minnesota Department of Transportation spokeswoman Beth Petrowske said motorists will need to be prepared to accommodate the project to upgrade the Blatnik Bridge.
During the first year of the two-year project, both Duluth and Superior bound lanes will be closed for a portion of the construction. Motorists headed for Duluth will need to take the Bong Bridge for the first half of the project this year, from early May until about mid-summer, Petrowske said. The Superior-bound lanes will be closed to traffic from mid-summer until about October.
The project includes strengthening the bridge’s gusset plates, painting the main span, replacing expansion joints, and removing and replacing the concrete railing with a thinner, lighter weight system.
“That will provide better access for maintenance,” Petrowske said of the new rail system. “Right now, it causes some problems” such as not allowing access to some of the bridge’s steel.
“There will be no sacrifice in safety whatsoever,” Petrowske said. She said all the safety regulations will be followed, but the change will reduce the weight on the bridge as well as allow access to steel behind the rail.
“It’s been difficult to do some of the repairs we would have liked to have done,” Petrowske said. “By replacing the railing with this newer railing, we will be able to get full access to what we need to get to for future repairs.”
It is not known yet if those lighter rails and repairs will lift a 40-ton weight restriction on the Blatnik Bridge once the project is complete.
Petrowske said that evaluation would be made when the work is completed next year.
Next year, the construction will continue but it won’t have the big traffic impacts expected this year, Petrowske said.
“There will be periodic lane closures in each direction,” Petrowske said.
Costs for the project will be divided between the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The Blatnik Bridge originally opened to traffic in 1961. It was closed completely for two years in the early 1990s when the approach span was widened to add shoulders and deck replaced.