Pedestrian option considered for Blatnik Bridge

[anvplayer video=”5076569″ station=”998130″]

Transportation leaders are considering whether a reconstructed Blatnik Bridge should include room for pedestrians, as well as which road the bridge should connect to on the Superior side.

Reconstruction of the 1961 bridge, which carries I-535 and U.S. Highway 53, is scheduled to begin in 2028 with a completion by 2032. Transportation officials say the cost is unknown.

The current bridge is too narrow for pedestrians, which are banned from the bridge. The Bong Bridge serves as the only bike and pedestrian connection between Duluth and Superior.

Transportation leaders announced Thursday that they are looking for public feedback on the possibility of adding a walking and bicycling path to the Blatnik Bridge project. People are being asked to complete a survey on the project website, which will be available through the end of December.

The Minnesota and Wisconsin departments of transportation are holding a virtual public meeting on the project Thursday at 6 p.m. to give an update on the project and explain the next steps.

After taking public input on options for the bridge’s location earlier this year, the project website now shows that six alternatives for the new bridge’s alignment are under consideration. One alternative is to follow the existing alignment exactly, while the other five would move the bridge a few feet to the east or west in varying alignments.

What remains to be seen is whether the reconstructed bridge will continue to connect directly to Hammond Avenue or whether it will be reconfigured to connect directly to U.S. Highway 53.

Currently, highway traffic uses ramps to connect to the bridge with a stoplight where northbound and southbound lanes cross.

A map of the project says that officials are still developing the exact configuration of what the interchange would look like if the bridge connected directly to Highway 53. Details are expected in early 2022.

The public can give feedback on the six alignment options and two connection options through a survey map listed on the project website.

Meanwhile, a project is planned for 2022 "to preserve the existing structure until 2028." Access will be maintained to Garfield Avenue, which is the bridge’s only current connection to Duluth due to the Twin Ports Interchange reconstruction.