DULUTH — After nearly two years of planning, transportation officials have narrowed the plans for how the Blatnik Bridge linking Duluth and Superior, Wis., should merge with U.S. 53 — and what its alignment will be.

One thing is clear: The bridge, which is more than 60 years old, will be rebuilt, though whether the work is done all at once or in stages must be decided.

The bridge is Minnesota's second longest and carries Interstate 535 traffic across the St. Louis Bay to Hammond Avenue, a main north-south road through Superior.

The Minnesota and Wisconsin transportation departments are sharing the decision-making and cost for the work, and project officials have recommended a reroute that would send traffic onto U.S. 53 rather than a street with a mix of businesses and residences.

Under one alignment option, the bridge would not be moved. A second option would shift the structure to the west across the bay, then connect it with the original route into Superior.

"To get here, we've considered everything," said Pat Huston, assistant district engineer for major projects at the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). "We're at a very limited number of reasonable alternatives."

The bridge, which serves more than 33,000 vehicles per day, will ultimately be entirely rebuilt, Huston said. Project funding, how the construction is handled and a timeline are still in the works.

MnDOT is soliciting public feedback with a community survey on its website through Thursday.

Huston said that in the next few months, the options will be considered more closely with traffic, cost analysis and environmental impact studies. He said he expects officials to have sorted through the alternatives by winter 2022-23.

The 1.5-mile Blatnik Bridge is one of two major spans linking Duluth and Superior; the other is the slightly less-traveled Richard I. Bong Memorial Bridge. As it neared the end of its lifespan, the Blatnik Bridge has required additional maintenance, specifically truss work. Transportation officials cite the bridge structure, vehicle mobility and vehicle safety as reasons for a new bridge — in addition to the need for a pedestrian and bike path, which it doesn't currently have.

President Joe Biden visited the bridge this year when he stopped in the Twin Ports to promote his $1.6 trillion infrastructure law, which directly affects the connector.

The cost of repairs to the Blatnik isn't yet known, but officials are using $1.8 billion as a general figure and are applying for competitive grants. Work could start as early as 2026.

Drivers now using the bridge face lane closures and detours as the structure undergoes concrete patching, sealing and joint repairs, as well as cleaning, painting and drain system work. The current project is expected to end by October.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the cost of President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan. It is $1.6 trillion.