Wisconsin, Minnesota DOTs request federal funds to rebuild bridge between Superior, Duluth

Gov. Tony Evers, together with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, announced in a recent press release that their departments of transportation have requested federal funding to help rebuild the John A. Blatnik Bridge between Superior and Duluth, Minnesota. More than $1 billion is available through the federal Multimodal Project Discretionary Grant program, which is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

For more than 60 years, the Blatnik Bridge has served as a link between Superior and Duluth via Interstate 535 and U.S. 53. Jointly owned and managed by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), the Blatnik Bridge is a key freight and commercial connection between the Duluth-Superior Twin Ports and serves more than 33,000 cars per day. The bridge has reached the end of its service life with significant structural deterioration, resulting in current load restrictions and its anticipated closure in 2030.

Each state recently committed $400 million and plans to seek additional federal funds through other sources, including other discretionary grants, to get the project over the finish line. Earlier this year, Gov. Evers signed the 2023–25 biennial budget, which authorized $47.2 million in funding and $352.8 million in transportation fund-supported, general obligation bonding authority to secure sufficient state support for the project. Additionally, with the efforts of U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, last year the federal omnibus spending bill signed by President Joe Biden included more than $255 million to support dozens of projects throughout Wisconsin, including $7.5 million for the Blatnik Bridge. This financial commitment has been essential to ensuring the state can be competitive in applying for additional federal support for the project.

MnDOT and WisDOT have been working on this project since 2020 and plan to reveal the recommended alternative for replacing the 8,000-foot structure in October.

The federal BIL funding will be allocated to a substantial portion of the project’s budget and help streamline scheduling. Design work for the project, which would determine specifications and shape the total cost of the project, is anticipated to begin in 2024. Once a final design is selected, construction is planned to begin in 2027 if full funding is secured.