ST. PAUL, Minn. — State transportation officials today provided an update on the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s decision to close the Highway 23/Division Street bridge in St. Cloud on March 20.
Bob McFarlin, acting transportation commissioner, reiterated that the Highway 23 bridge over the Mississippi River will be closed until it is repaired or replaced.
“The bridge will remain closed until we can say it is safe,” he said, adding that
Mn/DOT bridge engineers today began discussions with University of Minnesota experts in steel structures to determine the feasibility of repairing the bridge.
On March 20, state bridge inspectors found bending in the bridge’s gusset plates at four locations on the lower chord of the main span of the deck. The discoveries came while state transportation officials were conducting a field check as a follow-up to recalculations performed earlier this winter stemming from a Federal Highway Administration advisory on gusset plates.
“Minnesota is going beyond the federal advisory in looking at the gussets,” McFarlin said. The federal requirement is for states to recalculate gusset plate loads on steel truss bridges before doing a project that will change the weight load on a bridge. Minnesota is doing the recalculations on all steel truss structures, regardless of whether a project is scheduled.
“We’re giving equal scrutiny to all truss bridges in the state,” said Dan Dorgan, state bridge engineer. “The process is on an accelerated schedule that we expect to complete by the end of June.”
Prior to yesterday’s action, Mn/DOT had already been considering accelerating the replacement of the St. Cloud bridge, McFarlin said. The bridge is currently scheduled for replacement in 2015, but transportation officials had been talking about moving it up to 2010.
The state continues to work with the city of St. Cloud in routing traffic around the bridge closure. The detour adds six blocks to the commute.
For more information, see Mn/DOT’s Web site www.mndot.gov.