The existing Lafayette Bridge was constructed during the 1960s and opened to traffic in 1968. The main river span of the bridge is fracture critical. A fracture critical bridge is one that does not contain any redundant supporting elements. This does not mean that the existing Lafayette bridge is inherently unsafe, only that there is a lack of redundancy in the design.
The Lafayette bridge currently undergoes an in-depth, annual bridge inspection using special procedures for inspecting fracture critical bridges. A consultant inspection in 2007 reported the overall condition of the structure as fair, with only minor repairs and spot painting recommended. This work was done in 2008. The annual Mn/DOT inspections also report the overall condition of the bridge as fair, and that the bridge is satisfactory for public use. The most recent inspection was carried out in September 2010 and found no significant problems. While the Lafayette Bridge is a safe structure to use, it is nearing the end of its designed life. The bridge’s age and current condition are driving the planned replacement.