Duluth's Lift Bridge stuck in down position due to weight of ice buildup

Duluth’s famous Aerial Lift Bridge is stuck in the down position for the first time in its history Tuesday due to ice buildup that is 2 inches thick in some areas.

According to Lift Bridge Operator Dave Campbell, this weekend’s winter storm built up ice on the east side of the bridge, which added considerable weight to the bridge’s lifting mechanism.

Campbell said crews noticed the issue when they went to lift the bridge for a ship and weren’t able to after the storm.

Tuesday morning, crews began de-icing the bridge, closing it down in 15-minute increments and using hot water to “alleviate some of that weight,” said Campbell. In an afternoon update, the city of Duluth said it will continue to de-ice the bridge Wednesday. 

“We’ve never had to do it before,” Campbell said of the problem. “We are in new territory here as far as what would work, how we’d do it.”

Campbell said the ice buildup is an issue his team will try to be more aware of moving forward, but admitted that it “kind of caught us by surprise,” this year.

Ships coming in and out of the harbor have to use another port of entry about 5 miles away, Campbell said, which has an impact on which ships can enter and exit and how much weight they can carry. He said he has been in constant contact with the Coast Guard about the issue they hope to remedy soon.


Campbell made a special plea to residents to take care around the bridge in the coming days.

With a weather warmup anticipated, Campbell said ice is going to start falling from the bridge and his team has no control over where it will fall.

He told motorists and pedestrians to be extra attentive when using the bridge as a result.