Mon, Aug 21, 2023 1:01 PM
By Scott McClallen, The Center Square
The federal government might foot $1 billion to rebuild the John A. Blatnik Bridge between Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said their transportation departments will seek more than $1 billion in federal funding through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“The Blatnik Bridge connects the Twin Ports communities and economies of Duluth and Superior – it provides a vital route for regional commerce, tourism, and emergency services,” Walz said in a statement. “I’m proud to partner with Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and our colleagues at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to rebuild and modernize this critical piece of infrastructure as quickly as possible.”
For more than 60 years, the Blatnik Bridge has linked Duluth and Superior via Interstate 535 and US 53. Jointly owned and managed by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the Blatnik Bridge is a commercial connection between the Duluth-Superior Twin Ports and serves more than 33,000 cars per day.
Every year, the Blatnik Bridge carries nearly 265,000 trucks transporting $2.66 billion in domestic goods and $1.07 billion in international goods coming and going from 42 states and nine Canadian provinces.
The replacement project will improve safety and accommodate oversize and overweight loads.
“In partnership with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, our departments of transportation are ready to take advantage of this federal funding to make critical investments in the Blatnik Bridge,” Gov. Evers said in a statement. “This bridge project is a strong candidate for this funding and improvements will create a positive ripple effect throughout the region. The bridge improvements will foster regional economic growth but also bolster national supply chains and strengthen the reliability of the transportation network that serves hundreds of communities across northern Wisconsin and Minnesota.”
Each state recently committed $400 million and plans to seek additional federal funds.
The nearby Twin Ports is the largest port on the Great Lakes and the 17th largest port in the United States.
MnDOT and WisDOT have worked on this project since 2020 and plan to reveal the recommended alternative for replacing the 8,000-foot structure – Minnesota’s second and Wisconsin’s third longest bridge – in October.
“The Blatnik Bridge is rated as Minnesota’s highest risk for service disruption and replacing the bridge prior to 2030 is a top priority,” MnDOT Commissioner Nancy Daubenberger said in a statement. “A new Blatnik Bridge will improve travel reliability and freight access, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide good-paying jobs for local residents."
The federal IIJA funding will be allocated to a substantial portion of the project’s budget and streamline scheduling. Design work for the project, which would determine specifications and shape the total cost of the project, is anticipated to begin in 2024.
Once a final design is selected, construction is planned to begin in 2027 if full funding is secured.