MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers welcomed President Joe Biden to Wisconsin on Thursday to celebrate the more than $1.05 billion federal grant jointly awarded to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to replace the aging John A. Blatnik Bridge between Superior, Wisconsin, and Duluth, Minnesota.
This funding is being awarded through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight and Highway Projects program (INFRA) as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, according to a news release.
“I am glad to welcome President Biden back to Superior to celebrate the exciting future of the Blatnik Bridge,” Evers said. “It was a team effort that got us to this exciting point today—Senator Baldwin, labor to local leaders, (Minnesota) Governor (Tim) Walz and our Minnesota partners, and, of course, President Biden. With the help of this significant federal grant, we are building a safer, more efficient, and more reliable structure for the next generation. I look forward to continuing the positive partnership between our states and the Biden Administration as we work to build an even stronger future.”
Built in 1961, the Blatnik Bridge has served as an essential link between Superior and Duluth via Interstate 535 and U.S. 53 for more than 60 years. Jointly owned and operated by WisDOT and the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the important freight and commercial connector reached the end of its service life. The bridge has been load-posted for 40 tons since 2019 and can no longer carry overweight freight loads.
More than 33,000 vehicles cross the bridge each day, including commuters and visitors. Each year, more than 265,000 trucks transporting nearly $4 billion in goods pass over the Blatnik Bridge. Many businesses across the upper Midwest rely on the bridge to reach the Port of Duluth-Superior, the largest U.S. port on the Great Lakes. The bridge is also one of the largest marine links for U.S. trade with Canada, the top trade partner of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the United States.
Wisconsin and Minnesota each committed $400 million in program funding toward the project.
In 2023, Evers signed the 2023-25 biennial budget, which authorized $47.2 million in funding and $352.8 million in transportation fund-supported, general obligation bonding authority to secure sufficient state support for the project.
Additionally, the federal omnibus spending bill for Fiscal Year 2023 signed by President Biden included more than $255 million to support dozens of projects throughout Wisconsin, including $7.5 million for the Blatnik Bridge. The INFRA grant application was jointly submitted by both states in August 2023. The $1.05 billion grant equals the amount of federal funding needed to move the estimated $1.8 billion project forward.
Design work for the project, which will determine specifications and shape the final project, is anticipated to begin in 2024. Once a final design is selected, construction could begin as early as 2025.
Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and raised in East Texas, John Worthen returned to his home state to attend college in 1998 and decided to make his life in The Natural State. Worthen is a 20-year veteran of the journalism industry and has covered just about every topic there is. He has a passion for writing and telling stories. He has worked as a beat reporter and bureau chief for a statewide newspaper and as managing editor of a regional newspaper in Arkansas. Additionally, Worthen has been a prolific freelance journalist for two decades, and has been published in several travel magazines and on travel websites.