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Work to begin this spring on West Duluth bridges closed since June 2012 flooding

Nearly two years after two West Duluth bridges were damaged and closed in the wake of major flooding, permits are in place for the spans to be reconstructed and reopened.

The city of Duluth announced Wednesday that construction may begin as soon as April 30 on the 63rd Avenue West and Bristol Street bridges over Keene Creek.

During the flooding of June 2012, the raging waters of the creek overwhelmed a culvert under 63rd Avenue West -- an important local thoroughfare linking neighborhoods on either side of Interstate 35 -- and rendered the roadway impassable. An adjoining portion of Bristol Street also was closed after Keene Creek wreaked havoc there, as well.

The culverts themselves survived the flooding -- but they weren't big enough to handle the swollen creek, and floodwaters caused significant damage around them. The new culverts will be larger -- both of the old ones are single box culverts; the new ones will be side-by-side double box culverts.

Keene Creek is a designated trout stream, which means the project requires permits from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to protect trout migration and spawning. The DNR is allowing the construction to begin April 30, though the actual start date will depend on weather and spring runoff conditions.

The work is slated to take about three months to complete.

Work on the bridges was delayed while the city addressed other flood-damaged infrastructure and ongoing projects. While the streets were closed to through traffic, all residents still were able to access their homes from either side of the closures.