December 8, 1961: The Duluth-Superior Bridge Opens to Traffic

On this day in Duluth and Superior in 1961, the Duluth-Superior Bridge opened to automobile traffic, the first modern bridge to span the St. Louis Bay between the neighboring cities. The new span replaced the Interstate Bridge, a swinging toll bridge that stretched from Rice’s Point in Duluth to Connor’s Point in Superior from 1897 until 1961. (It was partially dismantled in 1971, and a remaining portion of the bridge still stretches from Rice’s Point and is used as a fishing dock.) To allow shipping traffic to pass beneath the structure, the 7,975-foot Duluth-Superior bridge rises 120 feet above the water. It quickly became known as the High Bridge. In order to build the 2,800-foot approach to the new bridge, nearly the entire Garfield Avenue Residential District was razed. In 1971 the bridge was renamed the John A. Blatnik Bridge in honor of the DFL congressman from Chisholm who played a major role in making the bridge a reality. John Blatnik was a big supporter of the St. Lawrence Seaway, helped pass the 1972 Clean Water Act. When he retired after 28 years in office (1947–1975), Jim Oberstar—Blatnik’s administrative assistant—took his place in Congress. Oberstar served until January, 2011.

John A. Blatnik. (Image: Library of Congress)

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