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Historic, suspension bridge will be saved over Minnesota River in Granite Falls

GRANITE FALLS — An historic, pedestrian bridge that spans the Minnesota River in downtown Granite Falls will be restored.

Granite Falls city council members awarded a $1,490,287 bid to Robert Schroeder Construction Company, Glenwood, at their meeting on Monday, according to City Manager Bill Lavin.

The company will begin work this season on the project. It is expected to take about one year.

Built in 1935 as a Works Progress Administration project, it is one of the few remaining suspension bridges in Minnesota. The original plans and steel cables that hold its 285-foot span were developed by the John A. Roebling and Sons Company of Minneapolis. John Roebling was the builder of the Brooklyn Bridge and inventor of the twisted steel cable that holds the loads of suspension bridges.

The bridge survived major floods in 1997 and 2001 that topped its deck. An engineering study found small tilts in the bridge piers, and recommended work to strengthen them. The project will also involve raising the bridge on its eastern side to keep its deck above the level of flood waters. 

The city had obtained a $512,000 bonding appropriation from the State of Minnesota and a matching grant from the National Scenic Byway to save the bridge.

The grant funds still fell short of the low bid by about $400,000, said the city manager. The city had included an additional $70,000 in a city bond issue for public works in anticipation of higher costs. Council members also took action at their meeting on Monday to create a tax abatement district including downtown properties benefitted by the bridge improvement.

The affected properties will continue to pay property taxes at their normal rates, but those revenues will be dedicated to pay off additional financing needed to make up the shortfall, the city manager explained.

There had been discussion at council meeting that the costs of restoring the bridge may exceed those of building a new bridge. Yet the city manager said there was “no question” about the desire to save the bridge.

It is appreciated for its historic and aesthetic value, and as an icon for the city’s resiliency in having survived two major floods.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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