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Ferries begin shuttle service in Winona; engineers consider short-term bridge fix

Ferry service between Wisconsin and Winona, Minn., began Monday morning.

Winona Mayor Jerry Miller says two ferries will shuttle people across the river every 45 minutes during the morning and afternoon commutes -- at least for now.

Miller says Winona officials felt their main task was to get something set up that works. He says they'll see how it's accepted by the people and make adjustments as necessary.

Miller says the schedule was designed to meet commuters' needs. One of the ferry operators says up to 150 people can be transported at a time.

Buses will shuttle passengers from the Wisconsin towns of Fountain City and Cochran to the ferry terminal in Latsch Island, situated in the middle of the Mississippi River.

The bridge was closed after Minnesota inspectors found connectors to the concrete so rusted out, one inspector's hammer went right through.

Short-term repairs

A Minnesota transportation official says her agency might make short-term repairs to the bridge instead of replacing it right away.

That's what engineer Nelrae Succio told a community coalition Monday. The group is looking for a long-term plan that would best serve the area.

Minnesota had planned on replacing the Winona bridge in 2017 and when an inspection turned up rusty gusset plates, there was talk about building a new bridge now.

However, Succio said Monday the Minnesota Department of Transportation is leaning toward reinforcing the corroded support plates and that could take months.

But after that, Succio said the bridge would return to a full capacity for more than a few years.

It's not known if the bridge would be open during the repair work.

A firm decision on the bridge's future won't be announced until later this week.