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Grant award lifts Granite Falls, Minn., bridge out of troubled waters

GRANITE FALLS -- An historic bridge considered the iconic image of a community's struggles with flooding will be saved, thanks to a recent grant award and state bond funds.

The City of Granite Falls recently learned that the National Scenic Byway will be awarding the city $512,000 to repair and preserve the historic pedestrian bridge that spans the Minnesota River in the city's downtown, according to Granite Falls City Manager Bill Lavn.

The federal grant funds will match state bond funds previously allocated. The city had committed itself to saving the bridge but was struggling to find funds to match the state bonding monies, he noted.

The steel suspension bridge was built in 1935 as a Works Progress Administration project. Its original plans and the steel cables that hold its 285-foot span across the Minnesota River in downtown Granite Falls were developed by the John A. Roebling and Sons Company. John Roebling (1806-1869) is known as the builder of the Brooklyn Bridge and inventor of the twisted steel cable that holds the loads of suspension bridges.

The bridge has withstood two major floods, but an engineering study of the Granite Falls bridge found slight tilts to two of its piers. Engineers have recommended repairs to assure its long-term viability. The plans also call for lifting the east side of the bridge. It experienced enormous pressure when floodwaters covered its east deck during the 1997 and 2000 floods.

If all goes as hoped, the bridge will be restored and lifted with work completed by October, 2013.

Tom Cherveny

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

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