St. Cloud's new bridge over the Mississippi River will open to traffic on Thursday.
Mayor Dave Kleis announced the opening date for the Granite City Crossing at the bridge's dedication ceremony Monday morning. Kleis says residents have been patient with the construction project, which has taken about 18 months to complete.
"If you think about that how long it usually takes bridges to be constructed and designed, it's a lot longer than that," he said. "So this certainly is a momentous occasion, record speed, almost miraculous."
The new bridge, which will open ahead of schedule, replaces the DeSoto bridge, which was torn down in March 2008 after inspectors found distorted gusset plates. That inspection was part of a statewide effort following the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis.
"The DeSoto Bridge was similar to I-35W, it had a lot of science in its design and if one element failed then the entire bridge would fail," said Director of Public Services Stephen Gaetz.
In the new design, if one beam begins to deform, the weight is transferred to the other supporting beams, which minimizes the chances for a catastrophic failure, said Gaetz.
The old DeSoto Bridge, which was built in the 1950s, was named after the famous explorer Hernando de Soto, who is credited with discovering the Mississippi River, said John Decker, assistant director of archives for the Stearns History Museum.
According to Decker, the DeSoto Bridge played a major role in connecting the city.
"The decision was made to build the DeSoto Bridge in the late 1950s to divert traffic from downtown and to create a straight shot from the west and east sides of the river," said Decker.
The Granite City Crossing has taken about 18 months to complete, and was paid for by state money from the 2008 transportation bill. More than 31,000 vehicles a day were estimated to have driven over the former DeSoto Bridge.