Construction on Blatnik Bridge expected to wrap up by end of October

By KBJR News 1

September 18, 2013 Updated Sep 18, 2013 at 5:30 PM CST

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - The final touches are being put on a two–year, $13 million project to preserve the structural integrity of the Blatnik Bridge between Duluth and Superior.

In 2011, inspections by the Minnesota Department of Transportation found the 50–year old bridge to be structurally deficient, meaning one or more components of the bridge received a rating of four or less on a scale of zero to nine.

Work to address the issues began soon after in an effort to expand the bridge's life for years to come.

According to MNDoT District One Bridge Engineer Perry Collins, the Blatnik Bridge has been deemed "fracture critical" since its construction in the 1950s.

But Collins says that's just due to the design, and in no way indicates the bridge runs the risk of collapsing.

"It's simply a designation that a bridge receives if it has members that, if those particular members were to fail, it could cause a partial collapse or [full] collapse of the bridge," said Collins, standing on the bridge Wednesday.

Work on the bridge has included repairing the corroded steel members found in the 2011 inspection.

"We also replaced all of the expansion joints in the deck of the entire bridge, so it can respond to temperature changes, and those stresses," said Collins.

Collins added they've also replaced the concrete barrier to make the bridge lighter, and painted the lower two–thirds of the tress section to stop corrosion.

Along with 30–thousand cars daily, the Blatnik has to deal with radically changing temperatures and weather every year, adding to its need for proper preservation.

For the record, there are 15 designated "fracture critical" bridges in MNDoT's first district, including the Blatnik Bridge.

Construction on the Blatnik Bridge is expected to be wrapped up by the end of October.

Billy Wagness

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