Blatnik Bridge Replacement Plans Come Into Focus For Duluth + Superior Residents
It's still a ways off, but the plans are coming into focus. Twin Ports residents following the Blatnik Bridge replacement project got a better look at what the final design will most-likely look at during a public open house session held this week at the Superior Public Library.
The public meeting was a joint venture of the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. The two state agencies are working together for the design and construction work, with MNDOT taking the reins for this bridge.
This meeting represented the sixth in a series that will continue through the eventual completion of the work. As it stands right now, MNDOT is looking at construction for the replacement bridge being complete by 2032 - ten years from now.
While any design for the replacement bridge will remain fluid until the design phase is complete (expected in 2028), people who attended the meeting got some answers to at least two major questions/decisions related to the project.
First - it appears that whatever the replacement bridge ends up looking like, it's crossing route won't deviate much (or at all) from the existing structure. According to details shared in an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], MNDOT and WISDOT have narrowed down the design routes they'll forward through the remainder of the project down to two for consideration: one would use the existing route alignment and the other would see a new route alignment built just to the west of the existing structure.
The most-important take-away from the two choices for the replacement route is this: both of them create the least amount of impact to businesses, property owners, and existing structures. If the bridge continues to cross the St. Louis River Bay in the same general area, massive infrastructure changes aren't required.
It also makes for some efficiency as far as the work goes. Pat Huston, a Project Manager with the Minnesota Department of Transportation offers that "the advantage of using the existing alignment is the currently unfunded project could be done in phases and the construction would only take about five years, but it could still impact one business on Connors Point and once construction begins, the bridge would be closed for duration".
If the replacement bridge ends up being built just to the west of the existing structure, that would allow MNDOT and WISDOT to leave the current Blatnik Bridge remains open to traffic. This would also reduce the "estimated closure time....by one and a half years".
The second design element that's come into focus during the public open house meeting is the movement of the landing on the Wisconsin side. As the Blatnik Bridge exists right now all of the traffic comes on and off onto Hammond Avenue for the most part - although there is an on-ramp route from the Highway 2 side. A proposal was unveiled a few months earlier that would move the primary on and off route for the bridge in Wisconsin eastward and more in line with the existing Highway 2. That will be "the only interchange...considered" moving forward. Although, it appears that engineers have included design features that would allow for Hammond Avenue access.
Total costs for the eventual replacement for the Blatnik Bridge remain unknown at this time - although it's estimated that the work will be one of the most significant of it's kind ever undertook by MNDOT and WISDOT. The project is currently in the "Preferred Alternative Selection and Environmental Documentation" phase. "Preliminary Design" features will be considered from 2024 to 2026, with the "Final Design" phase occurring between 2026 and 2028. Actual construction is estimated to begin in 2028, with a 2032 completion.