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The 10th Avenue Bridge in downtown Minneapolis will be closed to all modes of traffic for nearly 18 months as the city carries out an ambitious restoration of the 91-year-old structure that connects SE. 10th Avenue on the east side of the Mississippi River with S. 19th Avenue on the west side.

Detour signs will go up in March when the bridge closes. Drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists will notice major changes in traffic flow when the signs are taken down and the bridge reopens in summer 2021.

Drivers now have two northbound and two southbound lanes available. But they will have only one in each direction when the bridge deck is reconfigured. Space that drivers lose will be reallocated for bicyclists and pedestrians. A new two-way protected bike lane on the east side of the bridge will allow cyclists to ride separated from traffic. Pedestrians, who now have a sidewalk on only one side of the bridge, will have them on both.

“I like this layout; it makes it very safe,” said Don Elwood, director of transportation engineering and design for the city of Minneapolis. “It puts vehicle traffic [and bicycles and pedestrians] in its own spot. It will operate more efficiently.”

Despite being midwinter, crews this month are getting a head start on the $60 million project by removing deteriorated concrete from piers and the underside of the bridge.

Opened in 1929, the 2,174-foot-long bridge with its seven distinctive arches has not received a lot of attention in its lifetime. The sidewalk and bridge railings were replaced in the 1950s, and the driving surface was replaced in the 1970s. Those were the last major upgrades to the bridge that runs parallel to Interstate 35W.

Time has caught up to the bridge, which carries about 10,000 vehicles and 2,000 pedestrians and bicyclists a day. Its leaking expansion joints and drainage elements have caused concrete components to deteriorate, particularly in the arches and support columns, which have cracks and exposed rebar in places.

“This is well overdue,” Elwood said.

A 70-year-old water main 5 feet in diameter now suspended on the underside of the bridge will be removed, Elwood said. The city will dig shafts on either side of the river and will use a specialized tunneling machine to install the new water main beneath the river.

The work won’t alter the appearance or integrity of the bridge, which was designed by Norwegian engineer Kristoffer Olsen Oustad and in 1989 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. A video on the 10th Avenue Bridge project website shows the scope of the work.

We have the nation’s best drivers

Start chanting “We’re No. 1,” because Minnesota has the best drivers in the nation, according to Carinsurancecomparison.com.

The website used data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to rank all 50 states based on highway deaths attributed to speeding, drunken driving, careless diving, motorists failing to obey traffic laws, and states’ overall fatality rate. Minnesota came out on top for the fourth time in the past five years.

Minnesota’s lowest marks came from deaths attributed to drunken driving and speeding. Data from the Department of Public Safety’s Office of Traffic Safety showed 102 people died in alcohol-related wrecks last year, and 71 died in crashes in which speeding was a factor. Combined, that represented about half of Minnesota’s 2019 highway deaths.

Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.