MnDOT provides update on Blatnik Bridge replacement, including timeline

With the help of a federal grant worth $1.05 billion, significant progress has been made on the Blatnik Bridge Replacement Project.

“We’ve achieved a number of milestones with our project. One, we’re fully funded. Number two, we completed our environmental document process with a finding of no significant impact, which that process solidifies our preferred alternative. So now we know where we’re going to build the project. And then the other big milestone is we’ve made the decision that we’re going to use Design-Build as a delivery method,” said MnDOT District Engineer Duane Hill.

Hill says that of the three different delivery methods, Design-Build helps mitigate the risks of the project and get it started the fastest. As for the preferred alternative, it was decided that the best alignment for the new bridge is that of the current one.

“We looked really closely at alignments upstream, downstream, and on the existing alignment. We ended up selecting a preferred alternative that’s on the existing alignment because it had the least impacts to wetlands, to property adjacent, so we didn’t have to buy as much right away or have business impacts,” explained Hill. “It actually will have the shortest construction duration and the lowest overall cost. So those were kind of the main factors on why we chose that alignment.”

The estimated total cost, including design and construction, is $1.8 billion. The project is currently in its preliminary design phase. From there, it will enter final design in 2025-26. Phased construction is expected to begin in 2025 with a contractor starting the foundations in 2026.

Part of the construction will be demolishing the existing bridge. There will be an estimated 4-5 years of full closure. Traffic will be re-routed to the Bong Bridge during that time.

With so many detailed updates to provide, a community meeting was held Wednesday at the Superior Public Library. There was a PowerPoint presentation followed by opportunity for public comment.

“I think that was really encouraging to see the two states working together and the amount of involvement the public still has. It’s a necessary plan, and I think it’s a good plan. There’s not an easy way to build that big of a bridge,” said Douglas County Board member Dennis Cummings. “The project isn’t going to start tomorrow, but there’s been a lot of lead time in the planning and the processing and the opportunities for people to get involved.”

A map of the project can be found at this link. The full project details, including the timeline and ways to stay connected can be found on the project page of the MnDOT website.