Our view: Duluth's landmark bridge getting a needed lift
Last summer's tragic Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis provided more than enough of a reminder that bridges can't be ignored or neglected. And that's true whether they're superstructures like the one that spanned the Mississippi River...
Last summer's tragic Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis provided more than enough of a reminder that bridges can't be ignored or neglected. And that's true whether they're superstructures like the one that spanned the Mississippi River or landmarks like the one straddling the Duluth ship canal.
Today, the latest phase begins in what has become more than a century of ongoing and necessary repairs and maintenance to Duluth's historic and famous Aerial Lift Bridge. Over the next two winters, old paint will be blasted away and new paint applied; deteriorating structural steel and concrete will be replaced and patched; and the bridge's grate-like driving surface, chewed up from road salt, especially underneath, will be repaired. Portions of the bridge will be enclosed with tarps to prevent paint and other debris from falling into the water. Motorists may get bridged more than usual due to the work, but it's a minor inconvenience necessary for a larger good.
The tab for the $2 million worth of work will be picked up and split almost evenly between the state and the city. Duluth sold bonds to match a $1 million state grant. The project comes on the heels of almost $5 million of painting and repair work in 1999 and 2000. What wasn't painted then will be painted now.
"Our biggest reason for doing this at this time -- and I don't know if I want to put it this way -- but it's that we got the state money," Jim Benning, Duluth's public works and utilities director, told the News Tribune editorial page yesterday. Added lift bridge Supervisor Ryan Beamer: "You get money from the state, you take it. You may not get it again. And you don't want to just throw a million dollars from the state away."
In the wake of the Twin Cities accident, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty ordered all bridges in the state inspected. That included the lift bridge, which originally was built as a transfer bridge way back in 1905. The repair work so soon after that inspection is coincidental, Beamer insisted.
"The bridge inspection gave us a clean bill of health," he said. "There's no, 'Oh, no, the bridge is going to fail.' It's very structurally sound. It's a safe bridge."
Let's keep it that way.