December 29, 2023
By Lane Kimble
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Citing potential cost savings and better collaboration, the Minnesota Department of Transportation says it’s poised to use the design-build method to reconstruct the massive and aging Blatnik Bridge.
MnDOT Deputy Commissioner and Chief Engineer Jean Wallace sent a letter to Minnesota lawmakers last Friday detailing the Department’s rationale, which is required by state law.
“Design-build typically results in lower cost growth after the start of construction, fewer construction claims, and less delays,” Wallace wrote. “Design-build provides the opportunity for the contractor and designer to collaborate early to reduce construction timelines.”
The Blatnik Bridge carries I-535 across the St. Louis Bay and connects the twin ports of Duluth and Superior, which are the busiest out of all the Great Lakes. It is the second largest bridge in Minnesota, but has become unsafe and has weight restrictions that significantly limit the billions of dollars in freight and commerce that flows throughout the region.
Wisconsin and Minnesota will share the costs (currently estimated around $1.8 billion by 2028), however MnDOT is the lead agency.
Wisconsin committed $400 million in the 2023-25 state budget and has jointly applied for two separate $1 billion federal grants to cover the overall price tag.
According to the letter, MnDOT held several workshops in 2022 and 2023 and looped in contractors and engineers before ultimately deciding design-build as its preferred delivery method.
The current timeline has the project on track to be let in 2026 with main bridge construction beginning in 2027, pending the federal grant outcomes.
Click HERE for more information about the project.