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Back open for biking: Popular Mississippi River bridge reopens

Kristin Majkrzak, right, takes a break from her bike ride Wednesday on the newly remodeled bridge over the Mississippi River on the east side of Lake Bemidji. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI—A heavily used bridge over the Mississippi River is open again after a renovation project finished ahead of schedule.

Repairs on the bridge's deck, railing and substructure elements began July 9, with several of the components replaced. Additionally, the $300,000 project added pavement to the bridge, located east of Lake Bemidji and west of Lake Avenue Northeast.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Area Supervisor David Schotzko said the bridge was the latest in a series of rehabilitation projects in the region.

"We did a thorough inventory of all our bridges, gave them a rating and developed a list of priorities on how to repair them," Schotzko said. "Now that this one's finished, on the Paul Bunyan and Heartland (State) trails, everything's been rehabilitated or replaced. We're caught up there, but there is still a backload statewide."

According to Schotzko, the Mississippi River bridge is one of the most heavily used structures in the region. The last renovation project on the 12.5 foot-wide, 222 foot-long structure took place in 1964.

"This is one of the most used bridges and before the project it was pretty rough," Schotzko said. "It was one of the main reasons for paving the bridge. We were also concerned about damage from snowmobile skis, so we paved it to help cover and protect the wood more."

With much of the areas trail structures in better shape, Schotzko said the DNR is turning its attention north.

"The Blue Ox Trail is the next area that needs work," he said. "The trail is actually owned by the Department of Transportation and the DNR has a limited use permit to use it as a trail. Technically, it's not owned by the DNR, but since we use it as a trail, we have to keep the bridges up."

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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