News

Middle bridge at Taconite Harbor struck, taken down

Brian Larsen


On Thursday, August 31 the middle bridge at Taconite Harbor was struck by a truck carrying an oversized load and had to be taken down by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The idle bridge was listed at 14 feet, 1 inch and has been struck repeatedly over the years. The other two bridges at Taconite have clearances of 15 feet, 6 inches and 20 feet, 6 inches. MnDOT engineers decided the bridge had to come down when they determined the beam was cracked beyond having any carrying capacity. No one was hurt and the driver of the truck is cooperating with authorities who are investigating the accident. 
Staff photo/Brian Larsen On Thursday, August 31 the middle bridge at Taconite Harbor was struck by a truck carrying an oversized load and had to be taken down by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The idle bridge was listed at 14 feet, 1 inch and has been struck repeatedly over the years. The other two bridges at Taconite have clearances of 15 feet, 6 inches and 20 feet, 6 inches. MnDOT engineers decided the bridge had to come down when they determined the beam was cracked beyond having any carrying capacity. No one was hurt and the driver of the truck is cooperating with authorities who are investigating the accident. Staff photo/Brian Larsen A truck carrying an oversized load hit the middle railroad bridge at Taconite Harbor on Thursday, August 31 at about 1 p.m. and damaged it beyond repair.

With the rush of Labor Day weekend about to start and due to the instability of the bridge causing concerns for safety, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) decided to work around the clock to remove the damaged structure.

MnDOT called in Lakehead Constructors who brought two 80-ton cranes up the shore to perform the demolition and clean-up. Meanwhile, DOT workers routed traffic off of Highway 61 onto a 27-mile detour using Cook County 1, Lake County 7, Lake County 8 and Highway 1. The majority of the bypass was on gravel roads.

By noon, Friday, MnDOT had cleared the road, and traffic resumed as normal.

No one was hurt in the accident.

The three idled railroad bridges at Taconite Harbor were at one time used to bring trainloads of taconite pellets made in Hoyt Lakes to the loading dock on Lake Superior. The pellets would be loaded onto ships as large at 1,000 feet, and the pellets would be shipped to steel mills where they were turned into steel.

The 74-mile railroad used streamlined diesel locomotives. The last time a train, locomotive Erie 4211, brought pellets to the LTV Steel Corporation loading dock was 2001. In 2006 Erie 4211 and B unit 4222 were donated to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum.

Cleveland-Cliffs purchased the tracks after LTV went bankrupt in 2000. In 1956 Erie Mining built and operated the mine, power plant, train and loading dock, but Erie sold its assets to LTV in 1986.

With a stated clearance of 14 feet, 1 inch, the middle bridge offered the lowest clearance of the three bridges and had been hit several times in the past. Following the reopening, Stephanie Smith- Christensen of MnDOT praised the parties involved who opened the road.

“Thanks to the quick mobilization of everyone involved, Highway 61 is open just in time for the Labor Day traffic headed up the North Shore. A special thanks to Cleveland Cliffs, Lakehead Constructors, and the employees of MnDOT who worked together all night long to reopen the road so quickly.”


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