Winona’s bridge closing causing serious problems


I spent a fair amount of time last night looking for a picture of the now-closed Highway 43 bridge over the Mississippi River in Winona. I should’ve done what Chris Steller at Minnesota Monitor did: Search the U.S. Postal Service Web site, because Chris had a memory good enough to recall the release of a “Minnesota” stamp that featured the bridge.


This bridge closing may affect travelers more than others, because the alternatives are so far away — a half-hour in each direction. That’s a big chunk of time and, at $4 a gallon for gasoline, money. But as it turns out, this bridge — like others — appears to have been designed improperly and we’ve been cheating death on a daily basis to cross it.

Today, Winona’s mayor suggested it could be 2-3 weeks before it’s reopened.

And that might be optimistic. According to the Winona Daily News, officials met with business owners to brief them on the woes today. The bridge will be open to emergency traffic and if the bridge needs significant repairs, it could remain closed for a bit. Officials are looking to open it to pedestrian and bicycle traffic earlier, however.

Tearing the bridge down and building a new one is also an option.

While driving into work today, I thought, “why not start up a ferry service?” But according to a commenter on the Winona Daily News Web site, that idea gets no traction at all:

“Do not try and have a paid shuttle service privately. I heard from a cousin that someone tried to do that and was shut down because of Coast Guard regulations. They are working on trying to get licensed boats for this purpose and I suggested the Julia Bell Swain or the Island Princess from TI. Lets see what happens. “

Still, it’s an intriguing idea for an enterprising person and a smart commuter with a spare car. Leave it on one side of the bridge, live on the other, and take a $1-a-ride ferry with Fisherman Joe every morning. It’s not as if ferry service doesn’t exist elsewhere on the river.

Someone in the newsroom asked today, “why can’t the military just put up a barge bridge as they did during World War II,” and the most obvious answer is that that solution would close the river to barge navigation.

Coincidentally, the Army Corps of Engineers displayed its bridge-building prowess last month on the Ohio River. But those skills, apparently, would only come in handy if Wisconsin and Minnesota go to war and we need to get tanks across the river in a hurry.

Whatever your idea for a solution is, the city of Winona wants to hear it. It’s set up a survey on the city Web site, though at the moment it’s clearly leaning toward setting up a bus shuttle.

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