The Rock Island Swing Bridge, which connects Washington County with Dakota County over the Mississippi River in suburban St. Paul, MN, was closed on Monday, November 24, after a 200-foot piece of concrete between two columns was found on shore.
On the Dakota County side at the west approach, officials installed signs to stop pedestrians from walking onto the bridge. Marathon Oil Corporation owns the approach on the east side which connects to Washington County. The east and west spans are not connected because the center is locked in an open position to allow barges to pass.
On Friday, the concrete was found on the Washington County side of the river. Officials from both counties intended to remove the bridge in 2010 and discussed removal for many years.
The county’s chief engineer said the bridge needs urgent attention now.
Poor condition existed for many years
Built in 1894, the double-decker bridge closed to trains in 1980 and to vehicle traffic in 1999. Both counties inherited the bridge when private ownership went into tax forfeiture.
Dakota County’s transportation director said the county knew about the poor condition of this bridge for at least 9 years but no one knew of any imminent danger. Engineering studies indicated the bridge is in very poor condition. A bridge historian said he saw photographs of the Rock Island Swing Bridge at the Minnesota Department of Transportation that show metal so corroded that people can push their fingers through it.
The Washington County board is discussing what to do with the bridge at its weekly meeting.