Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Inver Grove Heights, Minn., gets grants to renovate bridge

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The city of Inver Grove Heights, Minn., has received a couple of mighty big gifts totaling $1.4 million in grant money to convert a historic swing bridge into a 670-foot public pier over the Mississippi River, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. And now, as they're getting ready to seek contractors to do the work, city officials say they're expecting that bids could come in 20 to 40 percent lower than anticipated by engineers -- thanks in part to highly competitive bidding during tough economic times.

If it receives the final stamp of approval from the City Council next spring, the pier would be renovated and open to the public next October, said Eric Carlson, the city's parks and recreation director and leader of the pier project.

In January, the council will begin accepting bids for the $2.2-million project, he said. The council is to vote on hiring a contractor on March 22. The construction would take place through the spring and summer.

The unique double-decker bridge was built in 1894 to serve the South St. Paul Belt Line Railroad and later the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway. The train rails were on the top deck, with autos and trucks on the lower deck. In 1982, the railroad sold the bridge, and it operated as a traffic toll bridge until 1999.

The City Council approved plans and specifications for the pier at a Dec. 14 meeting. Now, the city is waiting for authorization to take bids. That permission must come from the U.S. Highway Administration, which awarded the city a $1.3-million federal grant. The grant came from transportation funding under the federal stimulus bill. The city also was awarded a $100,000 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society.

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