DULUTH – The transformation of a disturbed Indian gravesite on the western edge of Duluth into a landscaped cemetery has been delayed until next spring, Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) officials said Tuesday.

“This project was originally planned for construction this fall,” said Randy Costley, MnDOT project manager. “A very aggressive schedule was put together to make that happen but we could not get the plans together.”

Work was restricted and schedules disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With construction starting in spring 2021, the cemetery — a restored woodland and wetland area with sacred spaces and a private feel — should be finished by fall 2021.

That will be more than four years since human remains were first unearthed by MnDOT crews shortly after work started on a new bridge over Mission Creek in Duluth’s Fond du Lac neighborhood in spring 2017. MnDOT stopped work soon after the discovery and the agency apologized for desecrating the graves. The burial area was restored last fall after years of study.

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa inhabited the area for centuries, and officials said the burial grounds have been repeatedly disturbed by development.

The band’s Reservation Business Committee approved the cemetery designs in February.

Originally a $2.9 million road project, costs are now expected to exceed $21 million. That includes the work done to date, the burial site recovery and the restarted process of designing and building a new bridge.

Construction on the Mission Creek bridge is expected to begin in 2024.