DULUTH — As unexpected costs continued to climb for the $343 million rebuild of the web of highway interchanges known as the Can of Worms, two key parts of the project were postponed indefinitely last year. Now they’re back on — for 2027 and 2028.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation has rescheduled the reconstruction of the Hwy. 53 bridge over the Lincoln Park neighborhood and upgrades to the Garfield Avenue interchange at Interstate 535 to later this decade after the Twin Ports Interchange project was scaled back due a $100 million funding gap.
“While our intention was always to get them done as quickly as we could, we needed to wait until funding is available,” said MnDOT spokeswoman Pippi Mayfield.
Those projects could move ahead if money comes in sooner, perhaps through a coronavirus stimulus bill, as planning is nearly complete.
Contaminated water and soil in the area led to increased costs and MnDOT’s decision earlier this year to put off the start of construction until next spring.
The main part of the project, centered on Interstate 35 between the W. 21st Avenue and W. 27th Avenue exits, will wrap up in 2024.
The Hwy. 53 bridge will be replaced in 2027 and will cost between $40 million and $55 million. Weight restrictions will remain in place and routine maintenance will keep it operating, Mayfield said.
“It’s never going to be unsafe,” she said.
For the $18 million to $24 million Garfield Avenue interchange, which will benefit large truck traffic moving through the port, the 2028 construction date now lines up with a major repair or potential replacement of the Blatnik Bridge between Duluth and Superior.
Public meetings on that project, which estimates place at up to $460 million split by Minnesota and Wisconsin, will begin in September.