By Shelley Nelson
SUPERIOR — Plans to reconstruct the Blatnik Bridge received a boost from the U.S. Department of Transportation on Monday, Jan. 22.
The $1.05 billion grant was sought by the Minnesota and Wisconsin transportation departments to help pay for the $1.8 billion project.
The Minnesota and Wisconsin legislatures have already committed $400 million each to help rebuild the bridge that connects Duluth and Superior over the St. Louis Bay.
Under the plan, the next bridge will cross St. Louis Bay on the same alignment as the existing bridge, requiring demolition before construction begins, but the interchange in Wisconsin will have a direct connection to U.S. Highway 53 instead of landing on Hammond Avenue. The new bridge would have a shared-use path to accommodate pedestrian and bicycle traffic between Duluth and Superior.
“Well this is big news,” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said by phone Monday. “This is the biggest … grant in the history of America for this particular program for highways and bridges.”
Klobuchar said she and U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., invited President Biden to the area in 2022 after the State of the Union address. She said the bridge has been on the president’s radar ever since.
“We were able to make the case,” Klobuchar said. “Over 33,000 vehicles a day, over $4 billion in goods.”
She said the Blatnik Bridge doesn’t just affect the economies of Duluth and Superior, but the entire economy of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin and beyond.
Klobuchar said she was thrilled they were able to secure the funding all at once.
“I voted for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to bring federal resources back to Wisconsin, and now we are seeing the results pay off,” U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said in a news release. “I have been pushing the Biden Administration at every turn to fund this project because a new Blatnik Bridge is critical for our economy, safety, and way of life.”
Baldwin said the investment will ensure that billions of dollars worth of products can get to market efficiently, families can get to work on time, and millions of travelers get to their destinations safely.
“By connecting Duluth, Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin, the Blatnik Bridge has helped drive our Twin Ports economy for the past six decades, said U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Minn., in a news release. “The Blatnik Bridge is aging, and its restoration is essential to ensuring continued economic success, which is why I have long fought for these funds.
"Securing the money to help replace the bridge has been a top priority for other states, and I am proud to have worked with my Minnesota and Wisconsin congressional colleagues to secure this critical investment," Stauber said.
Construction of the new bridge is expected to start by 2026.