Short bridge, long fight: Span designated historic

  • Article by: JIM FOTI , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 16, 2010 - 10:36 PM

Now that it's on the National Register of Historic Places, a firm is looking at what it would take to reopen the bridge.

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The 1901 Dodd Ford Bridge crosses the Blue Earth River near Amboy, Minn., about 25 miles southwest of Mankato.

A 109-year-old bridge that Blue Earth County has been hoping to sell, replace or otherwise be done with is now on the National Register of Historic Places, and a couple of new grants are being put toward designing its future.

The county barricaded the one-lane, wooden-decked bridge, which crosses the Blue Earth River, in May last year, citing safety concerns.

But a community group working to save the Dodd Ford Bridge, which is on a county road a couple of miles outside Amboy, Minn., won a $3,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the same amount from the state. A Bloomington engineering firm has been hired to look at what it would take to reopen the bridge to pedestrians or light vehicles, said Lisa Lindberg, an Amboy restaurant owner who has been active in the preservation efforts.

Al Forsberg, engineer for Blue Earth County, said an estimate done a few years ago put the cost of rehabbing the bridge and its foundations at $1.7 million, about the same cost as building a modern two-lane replacement that could handle large farm vehicles.

"The county Highway Department, like all local governments, is financially stressed these days, and we just have to focus on where we spend our money for greater farm-to-market public purposes here," Forsberg said. He said the bridge's historic nature has value to the public, but "developing a one-lane rural bridge museum just isn't as high a priority as some of these other items we're dealing with."

The historic designation, made Dec. 21, means the county would have to do an environmental assessment before moving or demolishing the bridge, Forsberg said. Last spring, the county sought proposals from potential buyers and earlier had pursued turning the bridge over to the local township.

Lindberg said bridge supporters are hoping to have their engineering estimates complete sometime in February so a request can be made to the Legislature.

State Rep. Tony Cornish, who has gone fishing and floating at the bridge, estimates the rehab would cost $500,000 to $1.5 million, depending on the work done. "I'd like to bring it back to light-vehicle traffic myself and keep the road open," he said, though an option that allows nothing larger than snowmobiles and ATVs would probably be less expensive.

Cornish, a Republican from Good Thunder, said the bridge should be a good candidate for funds from the new Legacy sales tax, though it will have to compete with other projects around the state.

Jim Foti • 612-673-4491

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