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Bong Bridge gets first major rehab

Westbound lanes of the Richard I. Memorial Bridge close March 31. The bridge is about to undergo an $18.2 million renovation project that is expected to take two years. It’s the first major rehabilitation project since the bridge opened in 1984. (Jed Carlson/

Shelley Nelson


For the first time since the Richard I. Bong Memorial Bridge opened in October 1984, the bridge that crosses the St. Louis River near downtown Superior is getting a major overhaul.

Over the next two years, the bridge will get an overlay of the existing bridge deck and repairs made to the sidewalk. Components of the arch, existing expansion joints, and street and ship navigation lights will be replaced, and the arch and girder ends get components of the arch, existing expansion joints will be replaced, and street and ship navigation lights will be replaced. Arch and girder ends get a new coat of paint.

In addition, the approach on the Superior side of the bridge is getting a new configuration when construction of a roundabout gets underway this year.

The $18.2 million project is expected to take two construction seasons to complete.

Work gets underway when the westbound lanes close March 31, said Brian Mattson, project manager with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

With the plan originally slated for construction between May and November, Superior Assistant Public Works Director said he originally thought the city would have more lead time before the lanes close; however, detours will be posted. He said detours will be posted to caution drivers along East Second Street before they reach Belknap Street and along Tower Avenue so they mistakenly drive to the Bong Bridge only to discover they have to go to the Blatnik Bridge to get to Duluth.

Construction on the new roundabout at the Superior approach to the bridge gets underway this year, but Mattson said he doesn’t expect it to effect traffic along Belknap Street until 2015, when the eastbound lanes on the bridge close next year.

The eastbound lanes remain open this year, but there will be intermittent lane closures as needed for the construction work.

“It’s going to be inconvenient for sure,” Mattson said. “Let’s let cooler heads prevail and just be safe.”

Construction of the $70 million Bong Bridge, which replaced the 1927 Arrowhead drawbridge, got underway in 1979 and opened Oct. 25, 1984. The 8,395-foot stretch of U.S. Highway 2 is 425 feet longer than the Blatnik Bridge to the north.

The bridge rests on 43 champagne glass-style piers, 37 of which are in the water. The center span is a single 500-foot long steel tied arch that is 80 feet high with a 120-foot vertical clearance over the St. Louis River.