Snow slanted across St. Anthony Parkway Oct. 27, pushed by a bitter and blustery north wind. But that didn’t stop the long-awaited formal opening of the St. Anthony Parkway Bridge. To the cheers of neighbors, construction workers and school children from Learning for Leadership charter school, city officials cut a red ribbon and the bridge opened to traffic.
The $31.6 million project began in 2015, funded by the City of Minneapolis, the federal government, the State of Minnesota and BNSF Railroad. It replaced a five-span bridge built over the railyard in 1925. The new bridge has three spans and echoes the look of its predecessor.
One of the unique construction challenges involved building over an operating railyard. Construction was often halted while the railroad moved a train. Similarly, rail operations were suspended at certain times during construction. Communication between the State of Minnesota, United States Department of Transportation, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, BNSF, and the Columbia Park, Marshall Terrace and Holland neighborhoods was critical.
“The old Warren truss bridge served our community for nearly a century,” said Minneapolis First Ward Council Member Kevin Reich. “It did it well. But it was not equipped to do what we do now. They didn’t know about multi-modalism in the early 1900s. The result is the nation’s first triple-redundant truss bridge.”
Reich acknowledged the contributions of the Citizens Advisory Council, which included Columbia Park residents Lotte Melman, Mike Melman, Dan Bembenek and Liz Wielinski; Marshall Terrace residents Patrick Kvidera, Melanie Vander Ziel, and Marshall Ostlund; Holland resident Adelheid Koski; Frank Miske, Custom Business Forms; Ray Ellis, Ray Co. Construction; Gust Kempf, Kempf Paper Company; Andrea Weber, Minneapolis Parks & Recreation Board; Demetairs Bell, Metro Transit; and Brian Sampson and David Johnson, BNSF Railroad.
The bridge is unique in many ways. It’s part of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway and connects Northeast to the other parts of Minneapolis’ parkway system. It will have an interpretive site at its west end with an observation deck that allows visitors to watch railroad operations and view the city skyline. Informative panels will tell the history of the bridge, the railyard and Northeast. Portions of the old bridge have been rebuilt to frame the site, which will include a garden.
City Engineer Lisa Cerney said the bridge was built offsite in sections and rolled into place – another first for Minneapolis. She said, “The bridge is redundant and fracture critical. In laymen’s terms, it’s a very, very safe bridge.”
Park Commissioner Liz Wielinski said she had watched construction of the bridge from her front porch. “When they [the construction workers] were out here banging around before seven in the morning, I never called. I just wanted them to get this bridge done!” She reminded Northeasters using the bridge that the speed limit is 25 mph.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges thanked State Sen. Kari Dziedzic, Rep. Diane Loeffler and former Sen. Larry Pogemiller for their help in getting funding from the State of Minnesota. City Council President Barb Johnson noted that $160 million had been spent in the past five years on the Camden Bridge, Lowry Avenue Bridge, Plymouth Avenue Bridge and the St. Anthony Parkway Bridge. “That’s a lot of investment in this area,” she said.
After the politicians’ speeches, the ceremonial scissors were brought forward and the ribbon was cut. Within minutes, the small but happy crowd had dissipated and cars were once again crossing the bridge.
Below: Despite the discomfort of holding a ceremony in driving snow, driving cars (and bikes, and pedestrians) is what matters. The St. Anthony Parkway Bridge over the BNSF tracks re-opened October 27. Part of the old bridge will be repurposed as part of an observation deck, with overall landscaping to be finished in spring. It was not too late in the season to plant trees, however (Photos by Cynthia Sowden)