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Mankato is getting a 'new' historic bridge

The City of Mankato is the new owner of the historic Kerns Bridge. The wrought-iron, bowstring arch through truss bridge is the longest of its kind in the country.
Credit: Minnesota Department of Transportation
Kern Bridge in its original location.

The city of Mankato is the new owner of a very old bridge. 

Built in 1873, the Kern Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in the state. According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), it's the only bow-string arch bridge in Minnesota – and at 189 feet, it's the longest of its kind in the country. 

The bridge needs some rehabilitation, but officials said it'll have a new chance at life less than five miles downstream from its original site over the Le Sueur River.

How it happened: 

Kern Bridge was one of Minnesota's "available bridges" to be relocated and rehabilitated for pedestrian use on trails or in parks. The bridges on the list have been determined eligible for or are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. 

The other bridge on the list, Eden Bridge, is on sale for a dollar. The only twist is that its buyer will need to pay to relocate it and fix it up. 

RELATED: A bridge for a buck?

The deal is different for Kern Bridge. A steering committee selected Mankato as the new owner of the historic Kern Bridge, and the city will receive federal funding to help move and rehabilitate it -- 80% of the project's total cost. 

“We want it to be used," District 7 State Aid Engineer Lisa Bigham told KARE 11's news partner MPR. "It wasn’t just to put it somewhere and forget about it. We want it to be restored and used and maintained.”

Mankato was one of four finalists that submitted plans for the bridge, competing with Fergus Falls, Sherburn County and Watonwan County. MDOT said the proposals were considered based on historical property guidelines, location, connection to trail systems, frequency of use and other aspects. 

Where it's going: 

Last winter, Kern Bridge was dismantled and packed away into sealed containers to await relocation. 

With Mankato chosen as its new owner, the bridge will eventually connect the city's Land of Memories Park to Sibley Park. MnDOT said Mankato's proposal included "extensive" added spans to meet the river’s width, but that a "streamlined, minimal" girder will keep its historic arch clearly in sight. 

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