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Amboy residents find way to save bridge

  • Associated Press
  • January 11, 2014 - 3:55 PM

MANKATO, Minn. — Some Blue Earth County residents have figured out a way to save the Dodd Ford Bridge over the Blue Earth River.

The 113-year-old bridge south of Amboy had been closed to heavy traffic for decades and shut down completely for five years. There had been discussions of demolishing it, but some Amboy residents landed a place for it on the National Register of Historic Places and enlisted the support of other groups such as the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, according to the Mankato Free Press (http://bit.ly/1c4dJZh ).

They've also convinced the county board to provide $130,000 needed for the $1.3 million repair and preservation.

"Oh, that is just the best news ever," said Art Sidner of the decision by the board. "We've been working on this a long time."

The work is expected to begin this summer. But first, the Legislature has to replenish the statewide local bridge fund when it passes bonding legislation during the session that starts next month.

The plan is to put the historic truss on top of a modern concrete bridge deck supported by steel beams.

The truss will no longer be doing its century-long job of supporting the bridge deck and traffic — the steel beams will do that — but the bridge will look the same.

But putting the truss back in place means that very wide and tall vehicles, such as combines and oversized tractors, will still have to detour about a mile to the north to the Highway 30 bridge.

The new Dodd Ford bridge will be strong enough, though, to handle almost anything that will fit under the 15-foot-6-inch truss, including most cars, trucks and traditional tractors.

Sidner said there are also plans to add signs explaining the bridge's historic importance. In Amboy's early years, the location was a ford on land owned by a settler named Dodd, according to the newspaper. Farmers looking to get their produce to the trains at Amboy had to cross the shallow spot on the Blue Earth, something that was impossible during times of higher river levels. So the construction of the bridge in 1901 was a big deal.

County Engineer Al Forsberg has little doubt that if the Legislature replenishes the bridge fund — and it's typically one that has broad bipartisan support — the Dodd Ford project should get funded.

"We've been working for so many years that I think there's a recognition we need to get this done," he said.

© 2014 Star Tribune