The Minnesota DOT has closed a 51-year-old bridge over the Mississippi River in St. Cloud.
The four-lane bridge is 890 feet long and carries 31,000 vehicles a day. The detour will be only a few blocks long, so traffic to and from downtown St. Cloud should not be significantly slowed.
During a press conference Friday, March 21, the state’s acting transportation commissioner, Bob McFarlin, said four gusset plates on the Highway 23 bridge were bent. Steel gusset plates contributed to the collapse of the Interstate 35 bridge in Minneapolis in August 2007.
McFarlin said that the river crossing would not reopen until the bridge was repaired or replaced. However, any repairs would be only a temporary measure.
“If we are able to find some means of repairing the bridge, it would be for the purpose of having it open temporarily in the interim before we could get to the project,” said McFarlin.
“It’s not at all clear: 1. whether any repairs are possible, or 2. whether if any repairs were possible it would be a smart thing to do in the meantime before replacing the bridge. … but we are moving forward very aggressively to expedite the replacement project.”
The bridge had been scheduled for replacement in 2015.
Inspectors discovered the problem late Thursday, March 20, afternoon during an inspection, part of a review of 25 similar truss bridges across the state.