Free: 1 Historic Bridge, Assembly Required

Baudette Bridge Photo: Minnesota Department of Transportation
Baudette Bridge

November 02, 2017 05:02 PM

It's big, it's beautiful, it's historic, and it's yours for the taking. Or half of it is, at least. 

The Minnesota half of the Baudette Bridge spanning the Rainy River to Ontario could be yours, for free, save the cost to disassemble, transport and reassemble.


As plans for its replacement near completion, the state Department of Transportation is required to offer up the Minnesota side of the bridge because it's designated a historic landmark. The giveaway amounts to a federal legal hurdle installed as an effort to preserve the structure.

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The state is offering its half – about 640-feet long and containing three trusses – to "any responsible government or other entity," including an individual. The trusses can be sold individually or separate, the state says. 

MnDOT spokesman TJ Melcher says the department isn't holding much hope for the bridge's salvation.

"We don't realistically expect this one to be unloaded," Melcher said. "Just because it's really expensive to dismantle, and you're not just able to use part of the bridge. You'd have to reassemble as an actual bridge itself. We don't really expect anybody to want it. But the opportunity is there, certainly."

The bridge is free, sure. But the cost to take the it down, pay for mitigation of contaminated material, transport the thing and rebuild it would be significant. And as part of the process, interested parties are required to submit detailed plans to the transportation department for each of those things. 

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Whomever wants it has to accept "all financial, legal, and maintenance responsibilities and the entity must reassemble the bridge to maintain its historic appearance and shape," the state advertisement reads.

"That's part of what limits who or what group would be capable of such an undertaking," Melcher said. "We don't add layers (of process) because we don't want it to happen, it's just logistics" imposed by the federal mandate. 

The bridge was built in 1959 and later designated historic in part because of its unique trusses. Plans for a replacement have been in the works for 10 or 12 years, Melcher said, because two countries, rather than one, are involved. "It's been a very slow process in comparison to other projects," he said. 

The Canadian half carries no historic designation and will be demolished. The new bridge is expected to be finished in late 2019 or early 2020, and the old bridge isn't available for pickup until then. 

MnDOT began accepting proposals in the past week or so, though it was unclear whether any had come in. That process will close Dec. 20. 


Michael Oakes

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