Rehabilitation to begin in late 2014; bridge could be reopen by late summer 2015
August 2011: A bridge that once served as an important link along Cedar Avenue, spanning Long Meadow Lake serving vehicular traffic until 1992 and pedestrians until 2002 when it was fenced off. The days of the Long Meadow Bridge, a five-span Parker through truss bridge built in 1927 seemed to be numbered, for the City of Bloomington wanted the bridge gone because it was a liability. Yet the bridge was on federal wildlife lands and officials refused to allow the structure to be torn down and replaced with a berm. Visiting the bridge in person, it was in a sorry state with steel parts corroding, weeds growing in the floor boards and the words of “restore me” being written on every steel beam and stone pier. And it is understandable for transportation officials at MnDOT claimed upon inspection that the superstructure was in good shape. The question is with the piers and flooring.
Fast forward two years and one month later, and we have a different story. The bridge which was fenced off for over 11 years will be reopened again, and the bridge itself will be restored so that people can utilize the bridge again. On a 5-2 vote last week, the Bloomington City Council, the same tenants who had debated over the future of the bridge for two decades, voted in favor of the restoration of the bridge for $12.7 million. This is part of the $250 million package that was approved a month earlier for the expansion of the Mall of America and improvements in the City’s infrastructure. Factors influencing the decision included the bridge’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places and the stance of the Federal Government, which owned the wildlife refuge and stated that restoration was the only viable option. The interest in the bridge being restored from pontists, photographers, bird watchers and locals was also not ignored.
With the approved funding for restoring the bridge, the next step is to determine how the bridge will be restored. This will be done through a public forum this winter, followed by design work next year, which once the plan is approved and the contractor is hired, construction would begin next winter (2014/15) with the bridge being reopened to all traffic by late summer 2015.
After a decade where a key link across the Minnesota River and Long Meadow Lake was closed off and where the bridge could best be seen by the observation deck located west of the structure or from the Hwy. 77 bridge located to the east, people will finally have a chance to cross the bridge and learn about its history, both in terms of its construction and a contributor to Minnesota’s transportation history, but also in terms of Bloomington’s history and that of the Old Cedar Avenue, whose 80 year history is loaded with relicts from the past and memories for people to learn about. And this is thanks to the City of Bloomington, the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation, the State Historical Society, Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, and those who have contributed their time and efforts to make it happen.
While there is talk of having a Historic Bridge Weekend in Minnesota, having it in 2015 will coincide with the bridge’s reopening. If this happens, it will make reopening the bridge start off with a bang! The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest developments involving this bridge.