Applause reverberated across Winona’s historic interstate bridge as Gov. Tim Walz and Mayor Mark Peterson cut the ribbon signaling the completion of the $145.9 million restoration project during a re-dedication ceremony Monday afternoon.
“Today we are celebrating a momentous day,” Peterson said, addressing a crowd that filled the 1942 bridge from guardrail to guardrail.
By 2 p.m., the floodgates of traffic were opened and motorists were, for the first time since 2016, flowing across the 77-year-old span.
The completion of the interstate bridge restoration marked the end of a project which broke ground with the construction of the new interstate bridge in 2014 and the restoration of the old bridge beginning in 2016.
However, work on the bridge can be traced back even further to 2008, when the Minnesota Department of Transportation closed the bridge after discovering it had been dangerously weakened by rust and corrosion.
“We all cringe when we recall in 2008 when the bridge was temporarily closed because of safety concerns,” Peterson said. “It was a stressful and challenging time for everyone, but it shows the importance and the need for a safe reliable Mississippi River crossing at Winona.”
Now 11 years later, the iconic bridge — now free of toxic-lead paint and complete with new approaches and a sturdy new deck — is stronger than ever.
And, according to Walz, proof that government can come together in service to the public.
“This is a community that came together to make a project work,” he said. “I am just incredibly proud to be a part of that.”
Walz’s sentiments were echoed by state Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona.
“This is the result of what we can see when Democrats and Republicans work together, when our community works together with our local officials, with our state officials, with our federal officials,” Miller said.
U.S. Rep Jim Hagedorn said the importance of the bridge came as no great surprise given Winona’s deep ties to transportation.
“It’s the center of manufacturing and business,” he said. “These businesses have thrived thanks to Winona’s placement right here along the Mississippi River.”
The bridge has been an integral part of that success, Hagedorn said.
While traffic is now flowing over the historic bridge, Ames Construction will be continuing to finish site work around the newly completed bridge throughout the remainder of the summer.
Site improvements will include the completion of a park space nestled in the bridge’s shadow.
“This is a community that came together to make a project work. I am just incredibly proud to be a part of that.” Gov. Tim Walz