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I-35 to stay closed for a few more weeks

A portion of southbound Interstate 35 in Duluth closed since Monday for emergency repairs will remain shut down for three to four weeks, the Minnesota Department of Transportation announced Thursday.

The southbound lanes between Lake Avenue and 21st Avenue West were closed after bridge inspectors found a deteriorated piling on the roadway. The damaged piling is one of 38 supports, or piers, for the low bridge that runs from Mesaba Avenue to near 21st Avenue West.

The piling that supports the pier "was so corroded we could see through it," Duane Hill, chief district engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said Monday.

"More substantial repairs are required than we originally thought," Hill said Thursday in a news release. "The plans we are developing will be safe and efficient for the construction crews to accomplish."

MnDOT said an emergency contract has been awarded to complete the repair work, which will be on an accelerated schedule that will include multiple shifts per day, seven days a week.

MnDOT spokeswoman Beth Petrowske said the piers are made out of steel, and that particular pier was almost covered in soil. The soil had recently settled, allowing the discovery of the corrosion.

"The fix will be concrete so it won't deteriorate," she said.

The area is low-lying and often wet, so a new drainage plan is being worked out, Petrowske said.

MnDOT engineers may adjust the detour route as needed to improve traffic flow.