DULUTH – The Lake Avenue bridge, that all-important connection between downtown Duluth and Canal Park over Interstate 35, is getting a $2 million makeover next year that will include bike lanes and better pedestrian accessibility.
It may also include headaches for drivers while the last phase of Superior Street undergoes construction at the same time.
Starting in April, parts of the bridge will close in stages for resurfacing that is expected to wrap up by mid-October.
“We won’t shut down the bridge completely at any point,” said Doug Kerfeld, project manager for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, though access will be severely limited.
The intersection with Superior Street at the foot of the bridge will be blocked by additional road work as reconstruction of downtown’s main commercial corridor reaches its third and final year. Kerfeld said MnDOT wanted to complete the federally funded bridge project at the same time to reduce the amount of closures needed.
Part of the bridge will be open to pedestrians throughout the project, including during Grandma’s Marathon in June. The 5th Avenue West bridge over the interstate will serve as the main vehicle connection between downtown, Canal Park and the interstate instead.
For the $31.5 million Superior Street reconstruction, “the third verse is the same as the first two,” said project manager Duncan Schwensohn. Everything but the sewer line will be replaced below the street between 3rd Avenue West to Lake Avenue. Work will start in April and should wrap up by November.
On the other side of Lake Avenue, a few weeks of work will be needed sometime in 2020, after time ran out to pour and cure concrete this year; temporary asphalt has been laid to allow passage through the winter.
That catch-up work will coincide with construction of a new high-rise apartment complex and the Essentia Health campus project at the eastern end of downtown, Schwensohn said.
About 50 people came to a meeting about the construction plans on Tuesday morning and were told that it will take some patience to reach the gleaming new Superior Street and Lake Avenue bridge by this time next year.
During the first few years of the project, the Greater Downtown Council told businesses to budget for a 30% reduction in business, though few have seen that much red ink so far.
Sara Rolfson, business manager for Zeitgeist, said remaining positive was key to staving off heavy losses while the road and sidewalk were ripped up in front of her cafe and theaters this year.
“If you don’t make it a big deal, your customers won’t make it a big deal either,” she said.
In addition to the roadwork in the heart of the city, the Twin Ports Interchange reconstruction on Interstate 35 west of downtown begins next year. The city has 17 miles of residential road construction planned for 2020 as well, as it takes advantage of its new half-percent sales tax revenue.
“I know these projects are uncomfortable,” Mayor Emily Larson said. “It’s costly for all of us.”