The St. Anthony Parkway Bridge, also known as the Northtown Bridge, is one of Minnesota’s historic bridges that deserves some recognition in itself. Located in the western part of Minneapolis near Columbia Height, this five span Warren through truss bridge with riveted connections is one of the last bridges of its kind to span the railroad yard in the Midwest. Built in 1925, the 530 foot long bridge is built in a 40° skew, another rarity one can find in the region, if not the country! Despite the lack of information about the bridge- thanks largely in part to missing plaques on the end posts of the bridge- the Northtown Bridge is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as it is located on the Grand Rounds of Parkways and crosses a historic railyard owned by Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railways- all of which have been considered nationally historic!
Yet this unique structure is in serious trouble. Both the City of Minneapolis and the Federal Highway Administration want the bridge removed and replaced, despite opposition from residents and the Minnesota Historical Society. Yet the decision to replace the bridge took many years to make due to series of studies conducted plus the debate over the cost between rehabilitation versus replacement.
In the meantime, the bridge has suffered a great deal, both in its outer appearance as well as with the decking. Officials at BNSF and the City of Minneapolis revealed in their surveys that the bridge is corroding, especially in the decking because of the trains passing underneath the structure combined with the use of salt in the winter time. Furthermore, the upper part of the bridge has sustained substantial damage to the portal bracing and upper chord, probably caused by trucks trying to cross the bridge despite height restrictions. A pair of photos in this article combined with a link to more photos (shown here) reveal a close-up view of the damage to the bridge.
As the city is actively pursuing a replacement bridge, pondering between a basket arch bridge similar to the Mississippi River Crossing at Lowry Avenue and a cable-stayed bridge similar to the Sabo Bridge, the question is what to do with the present structure, for even though one or two of the damaged spans are most likely going to be scrapped, the remaining spans have the potential to be reused, either along a bike trail in or around the Twin Cities area, or somewhere on a rural road for light vehicles, as has been done before. It may be possible that because of its historic status, the city may save only one of the spans, relocate it and reuse, as was the case with the Broadway Avenue Bridge in 1987, when one of the spans was relocated to its Merriam Street location, which still serves traffic to this day.
While the replacement plans are in the starting phase, the plans regarding the future of the present St. Anthony Parkway Bridge is still open. So let’s take a look at the bridge and ask ourselves this question:
What would you do with the current St. Anthony Parkway Bridge?
a. Relocate the remaining truss spans to rural locations- and if so, which areas would be potential candidates?
b. Relocate the trusses to the bike trail in and around the Twin Cities area- and if so, which bike trails could use a historic bridge?
c. Relocate the trusses to the bike trails elsewhere in Minnesota and the surrounding states- and if so, which ones need a historic bridge?
d. Relocate one of the trusses to a street location, like the Merriam Street Bridge- if so, which street in Minneapolis would be a candidate
e. Keep one of the trusses and relocate it to a nearby park
f. Other options
Please place your comments here, on the facebook pages or send your comments via e-mail. However, just as important as replacing the bridge is addressing the importance of saving the truss bridge to the state historical society and other state agencies, as well as organizations that specialize in bridge rehabilitation so that they have a chance to think about the options and support your decision. A link to MNHS is enclosed here, if you want to talk to the personnel about it.
When there is a will, there is a way to save a historic landmark that is part of a bigger district. While the city parks administrator would like a new crossing that is a signature for the City of Minneapolis, would it not be better to have a relict of history be saved that is just as big a signature for the city and its historic district as the new bridge? Minneapolis has a lot of history that can be reached by bike, foot or car and St. Anthony Parkway Bridge is one of those that deserves its place in history, live and in person…