City of Mankato to relocate, rehabilitate historic Kern Bridge in Minnesota

A steering committee has selected the city of Mankato as the new owner of the historic bridge

January 28, 2021 / 2 minute read
City of Mankato to relocate, rehabilitate historic Kern Bridge in Minnesota
Image: Minnesota DOT

The city of Mankato, Minnesota will receive federal funding to relocate and rehabilitate the historic bow-string arch Kern Bridge that traversed the Le Sueur River from 1873 to 2020 in Blue Earth County.

A steering committee has selected the city of Mankato as the new owner of the historic bridge. Mankato’s winning plan is to place the Kern Bridge less than five miles downstream from the original site over the Blue Earth River, connecting Land of Memories Park to Sibley Park, fulfilling a strong need identified in the Minnesota River State Trail Master Plan as well as other local and regional trail plans, according to the Minnesota DOT (MnDOT).

The criteria that was used to evaluate four competing proposals for this bridge included consideration that the proposed rehabilitation would meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and be re-listed on the National Register of Historic Places; its proposed location/setting; connection with existing trail systems; how much the bridge would be used and viewed; perceived risks in deliverability; and commitment to future maintenance. The applicant’s project team, support, and planned funding sources were also important factors in the selection process.

Although Mankato is urban, the future setting is wooded, crosses a large river, and is a similar context to the original site. The Kern Bridge will become an asset to the existing trail system and many users are anticipated—area residents as well as visitors. The bridge will be seen from the north via a scenic overlook and from the south via Highway 60/169. Though the proposal included use of extensive approach spans to meet the river’s width, MnDOT says the choice of a streamlined and minimal in appearance girder will allow the arch to be most visually present, an important consideration in re-listing the bridge.

The Mankato project team includes an engineering firm and historian group with historic bridge rehabilitation experience with demonstrated ability to deliver a successful project, according to MnDOT. Blue Earth County, who partnered with MnDOT to save the bridge, fully supports Mankato’s plan as the Kern Bridge carries much cultural significance in the area. 

The Kern Bridge holds the distinction of being one of the oldest bridges in Minnesota, is made from a rare material (wrought iron), and of a rare type. It is the only bow-string arch bridge in Minnesota and is the longest of its type in the nation at 189 ft. The bridge was removed, carefully dismantled, and loaded into sealed containers last winter.

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SOURCE: Minnesota DOT

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