DULUTH, Minn. — Repeated breakdowns of a pedestrian lift bridge between the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center and the city's Canal Park is causing angst for area businesses and forcing tourists and other pedestrians to walk nearly a mile to cross the Minnesota Slip.
The Duluth News Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1d9Gyo5) that the latest breakdown happened Saturday, when a cable snapped and part of the bridge got stuck in the down position. It trapped a Vista Fleet tour boat in the slip, forcing cancellation of two sold-out voyages.
"That mini lift bridge and the connection it provides is vital to the health of Canal Park businesses of all kinds, whether you operate a candy shop or a restaurant or a hotel," said Brian Daugherty, president of Grandma's Restaurant Co. "When it stops working, you can feel the immediate despair."
Duluth spokesman Daniel Fanning said the city is making repairs before upcoming events that are expected to bring large crowds to Duluth, including a Bob Dylan concert and a tall ships festival.
"In the long term, we realize we have to explore other options and see what else is a possibility. That includes everything from replacing the bridge to doing a big-picture repair or even filling in the slip," Fanning said. "At this point, the administration is reviewing and evaluating the situation because we realize we can't let this continue to happen, year in and year out."
Capt. John Stieben, owner of Lake Superior Fishing charter service, said three of his vessels also got stuck in the slip Saturday.
"I had three sets of clients who came to town and stayed overnight to go fishing Saturday. But we couldn't even get off the dock because of that bridge," said Stieben, who figures he lost about $1,500.
Justin Steinbach, co-owner of the Vista Fleet, said the city has been responsive when there are issues with the bridge. But he plans to ask the city to reimburse him for money he lost on Saturday.
"It's kind of like driving a car with 125,000 miles on it that requires $300 to $400 in repairs every month. At a certain point, you have to ask: Is it worth it or is it time to look for a newer vehicle?" he said of the blue bridge.
The $800,000 bridge broke down shortly after it opened in 1991, and has been unreliable during some inopportune times, including during a 2011 maritime tall ship festival, a Reggae Festival and a dog show. The bridge was also inoperable during the 2006 Bayfront Blues Festival.