AMBOY — State transportation officials have authorized more than $1.15 million to save, and reopen to traffic, a rural Blue Earth County bridge that was once on the list of Minnesota's most endangered historic structures.
"The Dodd Ford Bridge Preservation Society is just very, very pleased," said Lisa Lindberg, owner of the Amboy Cottage Cafe. "It's been a long haul."
The 113-year-old bridge has been closed to heavy traffic for decades, closed to all vehicles for more than five years and was tentatively slated for demolition about 10 years ago. The Dodd Ford bridge is a fracture-critical bridge, meaning the failure of one component could cause the entire structure to collapse, and it's also functionally obsolete — too narrow and too weak to carry modern vehicles.
After the 2007 collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, which was also a fracture-critical bridge, efforts intensified to close the rural Amboy bridge. Blue Earth County obtained federal funding to cover most of the cost of demolishing and replacing the bridge, located a bit more than a mile southwest of Amboy on County Road 147.
But for all its flaws, several Amboy residents saw history and elegance in the old truss bridge and came together to try to save it. With the daunting cost of repairing it, the engineering challenges of trying to preserve its historic design while making it safe for large vehicles, and the fact that the lightly traveled road brought with it only a small constituency, Lindberg said she did lose hope at times.
"Many, many, many times," she said. "But the group has found support in so many places."
The bridge landed on the National Register of Historic Places and won support from lawmakers and groups such as the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota. Turning that support into a solution was a trickier process.