Northeastern Minnesota residents and Labor Day weekenders will encounter a major delay and detour along heavily traveled Hwy. 61 northeast of Duluth on Friday — and perhaps longer.

An inactive railroad bridge over the North Shore highway at Taconite Harbor, near Schroeder, was damaged when it was hit by a vehicle about 1 p.m. Thursday, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

“Whenever a bridge that crosses a state roadway is damaged, we’ve got to close the road, because it could be unsafe,” MnDOT communications director Kevin Gutknecht said Thursday night.

Construction crews were called to dismantle the bridge, once used for taconite rail shipments, and essentially get it out of the way, but it’s not clear when that work will be completed, Gutknecht said. The Duluth News Tribune reported that contractors hope to have it done and Hwy. 61 reopened around noon Friday.

Until it is, motorists are in for a 27-mile detour, much of it on gravel roads. The detour follows Cook County Road 1, Lake County Roads 7 and 8, and Minnesota Hwy. 1 before returning to Hwy. 61.

The plus side? Those are pretty scenic roads, along which travelers can see early signs of leaves turning color for fall.

For updates on the situation, call 511 or go to