St. Cloud mayor says Monday will be true test of traffic

Desoto Bridge truss
The steel truss for the Highway 23 bridge in St. Cloud, a design that's almost identical to the I-35W bridge.
MnDOT photo

Drivers in St. Cloud got a big question mark thrown into their commute when Mn-DOT closed the DeSoto Bridge, which carries highway 23 traffic across the Mississippi River.

Inspectors had found bends in the gusset plates that support the bridge. Gusset plates have been linked to the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, and the St. Cloud bridge has the same design.

Dave Kleis
St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis said he drove through the detour routes a few times Friday morning, and found commute times acceptable.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

"We'll have a better indication Monday of how the traffic flow is and we'll make adjustments on the detours," said mayor Dave Kleis, in an interview. "Our city engineers and MnDOT engineers will time lights and make additional adjustments to make sure traffic flows as smooth as possible."

Kleis also says replacing the bridge would make more sense than fixing it because MnDot was already planning for a new bridge - even before yesterday's closure.

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Meanwhile, state transportation officials say they're looking at new funding approved by the Legislature to possibly speed up the construction of a new bridge.

Underside of bridge
A view of the underside of the Desoto Bridge near downtown St. Cloud.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

Transportation officials say it's not clear whether they can repair the St. Cloud bridge. And they say no matter what, they're looking at accelerating its replacement.

Acting Transportation Commissioner Bob McFarlin said it's possible a new St. Cloud bridge could be put on a fast track the same way the new I-35W bridge has been.

He also estimated that a new bridge would cost around $30 million, though the state is still in very preliminary planning stages, and a final cost figure has not been set.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)