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St. Paul curbs traffic on downtown bridge, citing structural concerns

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Kellogg Bridge in St. Paul.
Kellogg Bridge runs over Interstate 94 in St. Paul.
Bridget Bennett / MPR News

St. Paul officials are restricting traffic on the Kellogg Boulevard-Third Street Bridge in downtown after engineers found that the outer lanes weren't designed to carry current traffic levels.

  A temporary closure of the bridge was already planned to start on Friday for construction on Prince Street near Kellogg Boulevard in Lowertown. When the bridge reopens Monday at 6 a.m., traffic will be restricted to the center lanes only.

  The bridge has undergone routine inspections but a recent analysis conducted in preparation for repairing the bridge's piers found that the outer lanes don't meet federal code for the amount of traffic they carry, city officials said in a statement.

St. Paul will immediately pursue funding to rebuild the bridge, Mayor Chris Coleman said.  

Kellogg Bridge in St. Paul.
Kellogg Bridge in St. Paul.
Bridget Bennett / MPR News

"We are acting swiftly in the interest of public safety," Coleman said. "Obviously, the news that the bridge's outer lanes are structurally deficient is not something we can overlook, despite the fact that the bridge has functioned for more than 30 years and the obvious challenges this will pose to movement within the city."

  Coleman said city engineers will be working to designate alternative routes.

St. Paul City Engineer John Maczko said the inner lanes are still safe.

"We now have data and calculations and information that says we shouldn't be having the traffic loads out there, so we're going to take action to move them to the inner most lanes and off the cantilevers," Maczko said. 

Kellogg Boulevard bridge
Inspectors say the cantilevered piers under the Kellogg Boulevard/3rd Street bridge in St. Paul are inadequately designed.
Tim Nelson / MPR News

  The half-mile concrete bridge was built by the Minnesota Department of Transportation in 1980 and turned over to the city in 1983. It runs roughly parallel to the Mississippi River, over the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, connecting downtown St. Paul to Mounds Boulevard.

Council president Kathy Lantry said preliminary estimates show replacing the bridge would cost $30 million to $40 million and a repair would cost around $8 million. She says a new bridge would better accommodate a future bus rapid transit line that's part of the Gateway Corridor proposal. 

  "We are already starting to talk with both our state and federal partners to get that sort of money because the city would not be able to afford to do that," Lantry said.

Federal Highway Administration numbers from December show that 1,086 of the state's 13,137 bridges are classified as "structurally deficient." The collapse of the Interstate 35W Bridge in 2007 spurred MnDOT to embark on an ambitious $2.5 billion decade-long campaign to shore up the state's bridges.