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Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge not operating

City team assessing issue as bridge remains in down position.

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The Aerial Lift Bridge, shown here in December 2015, has not been operating as of Monday morning. (file photo / Duluth News Tribune)
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Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge has not been operating since Monday morning, the city confirmed, citing ice build-up. Vessels traversing in and out of the Duluth port will temporarily use the Superior entry.

"Lift Bridge operations have temporarily closed due to weight from ice," a city of Duluth news release said Monday afternoon. "The east sidewalk (on the lake side) on the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge was closed due to safety precautions. De-icing operations will begin (Tuesday)."

The bridge was hammered by wave action through the Duluth ship canal throughout last weekend's blizzard.

“A team is down there doing analysis,” city spokesperson Kate Van Daele said on Monday.

There is no timetable for when the bridge will be back in operation.

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Using the Superior entry will require vessel captains to be extra cautious, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority said.

"The Superior front channel is slightly shallower than the Duluth ship canal and Duluth harbor basin, so captains must navigate with extra caution, particularly near some of the shoal areas," Port Authority spokesperson Jayson Hron said. "Additionally, the Superior front channel is longer than the Duluth entry, so rerouting to the Superior entry can equate to higher costs due to the additional time required to bring the ship through the Superior front channel to its Duluth destination."

Since its modification in 1929 to include the raising and lowering bridge deck, the Aerial Lift Bridge has been rehabilitated four times, 1986, 1999, 2007 and 2009, with each project addressing different needs, the Minnesota Department of Transportation website said.

MnDOT said past rehabilitation efforts generally included replacement of the operator’s house, select structural steel elements, the bridge sidewalk and retaining walls; repairs to the abutments, deck grating, machinery, superstructure and lighting system; bridge cleaning and painting; and guardrail.

The iconic bridge raises and lowers thousands of times a year to allow for ore boats, foreign ships, U.S. Coast Guard vessels and recreational vessel traffic to travel through the Duluth ship canal.

Editor's note: This story was updated following a Monday afternoon city of Duluth news release.

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