Rock Island Swing Bridge pier opening delayed

  • Article by: Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 22, 2010 - 11:20 PM

High waters from storms have delayed the project.

Flooding from September storms has kept developers from finishing the conversion of the Rock Island Swing Bridge in Inver Grove Heights into a 670-foot recreational pier.

The pier, which was supposed to open with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the beginning of November, won't be accessible to the public until at least the spring, said Eric Carlson, parks and recreation director for the city.

The $2.4 million project will preserve what is left of the old double-decker bridge across the Mississippi River and turn it into a sightseeing attraction. It's been under construction since April. But because of the floods, "the construction site was underwater for about three weeks," Carlson said.

Now, with winter on the way, it's looking like the opening will happen instead in April of next year, he said.

After some of the old bridge started to crumble onto the river banks a couple of years ago, it had been set for demolition.

But the city was able to save what remained of the historic landmark, which once carried trains on the top deck and auto traffic below, with the help of a $1.3 million federal grant, county funds and money donated by the Minnesota Historical Society. Some funds have also been raised by the general public.

The city acquired about 21 acres of land to turn into an adjacent park.

The bridge was built in 1895 for the South St. Paul Beltline Railroad to connect the South St. Paul stockyards with main rail lines that ran through St. Paul Park on the other side of the river.

The bridge has been closed to rail traffic since 1980 and closed to cars for more than a decade.

Inver Grove Heights was recently recognized at the State Fair with a Minnesota Community Pride award for efforts to preserve the bridge.

NICOLE NORFLEET

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