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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Long Meadow Bridge
Historic Cedar Avenue Minnesota River Crossing
Bloomington, MN to Eagan, MN

Long Meadow Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI: 3145.
• Location: River Mile 7.3.
• River Elevation: 686 Feet.
• Highway: Former Cedar Avenue.
• Daily Traffic Count: 0 (Closed To Traffic).
• Bridge Type: Steel Truss Through Deck.
• Length: 865 Feet.
• Width: 21 Feet, 2 Lanes.
• Navigation Channel Width: Non-Navigable.
• Height Above Water: ???.
• Date Built: 1920.
The Long Meadow Bridge is part of what is known today as the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge. This bridge consisted of two sections. The northern section over Long Meadow Creek consists of a 5 section through-truss steel bridge. The southern section was a swing span that crossed the main river navigation channel of the Minnesota River. The swing span was removed shortly after the new Cedar Avenue Bridges opened in 1979. The river crossing opened in 1891, so the 1920 section is actually a replacement for an earlier span.

The Long Meadow Bridge still had value in that it offered a bridge to a large island in the middle of the river flats. This bridge was given to the City of Bloomington by the State of Minnesota in 1981, and was still open to automobile traffic as late as 1993. It remained open to pedestrian and bicycle traffic after it was closed to vehicle traffic. In the early 2000s, the bridge deck was declared to be unsafe. A local bicycle club passed the hat for donations, and purchased 60 sheets of plywood to lay down a new deck. The bridge was deemed unsafe again in 2002, and had to be barricaded at each end.

Bicycle traffic was able to use the 5 span section to cross over to the island in the river, then cross the main channel using a narrow bridge that is suspended under the east span of the new bridge. When the Long Meadow Bridge was closed in 2002, it was no longer possible to cross the Minnesota River by bicycle at any location between the airport and Shakopee.

There is a lot of interest in rebuilding the bridge over the secondary channel. For bicycles, the next nearest crossing leading to the south and east parts of the metro area is a 15 mile detour. The existing bridge is covered with lead paint, so it would have to be wrapped in plastic before being removed. The structure is so weak that you can put your fingers through the beams in places, so the spans would have to be reinforced before moving them to keep them from falling apart and dropping into the river. The cost to remove the bridge is estimated at $1-million. A new bicycle bridge might cost a million or two, while an automobile bridge could cost upwards of $5-million.

Update—the 2008 state budget bill has a line item allocating money for removal of the Long Meadow bridge. The line item is written such that any money left over from the removal project may be used to build a new regional trail bridge at the same location.

Update—the city council in Bloomington has discussed the replacement for the Long Meadow Bridge several times. While several grants are available to fund the bridge replacement, each grant has strings attached. It appears that the amount of money it would cost to prepare the grant applications and do the studies required by each grant would exceed the amount of money that these grants would provide.

Update—a preservation group is reported to be working to prepare an application to have the Long Meadow Bridge recognized as a historic structure. If that bid is successful, that means that the existing bridge would need to be restored rather than being replaced. The cost of such a project could be $10-million or more, which far exceeds the funding that is available. As a result, the project remains stalled.

The photo above is the north end of the Long Meadow Bridge, as seen from Old Cedar Avenue, the road that once crossed Long Meadow Lake and the Minnesota River at this location. Compared to photos below from previous years, the greenery is really starting to encroach on the old roadway.


Long Meadow Bridge
The photo above is a view looking south down the length of the bridge deck on a late autumn afternoon. The photo below is a closer view looking south down the center of the bridge deck on a bright summer morning. Not only is there a lot more color in the center, but the greenery grows right down the edges of the bridge deck.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These two photos are views of Old Cedar Avenue south of the Long Meadow Bridge where the road crosses the island in the middle of the Minnesota River. The photo above is looking northbound, while the photo below is looking south towards the main spans of the new Cedar Avenue Bridge. Fallen trees overhang the roadway in several spots.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These two photos are looking north from the south end of the Long Meadow Bridge. The photo above is a view of the bridge portal, while the photo below is looking down the length of the bridge deck. The plywood in the center of the deck was funded by local bicycle groups as an attempt to extend the life of the bridge.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
A section of bridge deck has been removed at each end of the bridge. Here, we see the missing section at the south end of the structure. In addition, chain link fence blocks the entrance to the bridge. Steel cables have been threaded through the fence to prevent vandals from removing the barrier. The photo below is a view looking across the deck. This is the first view that shows the deterioration of the bridge beams.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These two photos are views from under the south end of the Long Meadow Bridge. The photo above is looking north towards the first bridge pier. The poles are the remains of the 1890 bridge structure. The photo below is a view looking south at the bridge abutment.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These two photos are views of bridge beams at the south end of the structure. The photo above is the connection between girders and a stringer at the abutment. Note that you can see daylight through holes at several spots on this beam, and that the stringer is rotted through on the right side of the photo. The photo below shows a beam that is almost completely rotted away.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These two photos are views of the bridge bearings at the south end of the structure. The photo above is the southeast bridge bearing, while the photo below is the southwest bridge bearing. Note that the bridge structure is pushed fully back up against the concrete abutment. This is most likely caused by the bridge sagging due to a weakened structure. The pressure is causing the concrete to crack. That suggests that this span is at risk of collapsing under its own weight.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
The photo above is the southwest corner of the structure. Note that the beam in the foreground is riveted to a gusset plate. Riveted construction was common prior to World War II. The photo below is a view of the west side of the structure looking north towards Bloomington.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These two photos are views of Old Cedar Avenue on the north end of the Long Meadow Bridge. The photo below is looking south towards the bridge, while the photo above is looking north towards the river bluff. The pavement island likely supported a toll booth canopy.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These signs near the north end of the bridge suggest that the structure is closed to everyone, and suggests that people should stay off of the bridge. Given the deterioration that we see in these photos, that is probably a good idea if you are concerned about your personal safety.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These two photos show more signs at the north end of the bridge (above) and attached to the bridge truss structure (below). There are also K-blocks blocking the approach to the bridge. It is apparent that people are discouraged from using this bridge.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These two photos are views looking southeast towards the west face of the Long Meadow Bridge. There are a total of 5 truss spans supported by 4 main bridge piers. Due to the brush and swamp grass, it is difficult to get a photo of the side of the bridge.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These two photos are views looking south down the length of the bridge deck. Note that there are a few people at the far end of the bridge deck in the photo above. These people are more than half way across the bridge in the photo below. This is not a very bright thing to do. First, the bridge is often patrolled by police, and they do ticket trespassers. Second, the structure is in very poor condition. Third, it is dangerous to attempt to cross the sections at each end of the bridge where the deck has been removed.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These two photos are views of the west side of the bridge as seen from under the north end of the structure. The photo below is looking directly along the edge of the metal structure while the photo below is a little wider angle that shows more of the truss structure.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These two photos are views from under the north end of the Long Meadow Bridge. The photo above is looking south towards the first bridge pier. The photo above is a view of the structure under the bridge deck. Note that part of the cross brace is rotted off and has fallen from the structure. Also note that you can see through the beams in several locations.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These two photo are views of the north end of the bridge. The photo above shows the section of missing deck at the north end of the structure. The photo below is the underside of the bridge looking at the bridge abutment.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These two photos are close views of two areas of the bridge structure. The photo above is a bridge girder. The photo below is a beam made of two parallel members that are cross-braced by small steel straps. Both photos show that the metal has rusted completely through.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
The photo above is the northeast corner of the bridge and bridge bearing as seen from under the structure. The photo below is the northwest corner of the bridge. Note that the abutment is cracked in several locations. This is another sign that the bridge is near the point of collapse.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These two photos are from the spring flood of 2010. Both are views of the Long Meadow Bridge taken by pointing the camera to the west out the passenger side window while traveling southbound on highway MN-77 on the Cedar Avenue bridge.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These two photos are additional views from the spring flood of 2010. The photo above is the south spans of the Long Meadow bridge visible while looking west from under one of the spans of the Cedar Avenue bridge. The photo below is a view from Hog Ridge Trail, which runs along the bluffs on the north side of the river. The photo is looking into the bright morning sun. The water level is just under the bridge deck. In contrast, the water was several feet over the bridge deck in the 2001 flood.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
The photo from the flood (two photos above) suggests that maybe there is a way to get a good photo of the east side of the structure from the edge of the swamp just off of the Hog Ridge Trail. This area has a small opening in the trees due to a sewer line that was installed a few years ago. It would have to be a very early morning shot to make the sun angle work. I returned to this site in the summer of 2010, only to find it very swampy and choked with brush. I was able to make my way through the brush, then hold the camera above my head to get up over the swamp grass. The photo above shows all five truss spans, while the photo below is a close view of the second span from the north end of the structure.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
The Minnesota River experienced a rare autumn flood in late September and early October of 2010 due to an exceptionally large rainfall across the southeastern part of the state. These two photos are views looking through the brush and trees towards the upstream west face of the Long Meadow Bridge from the parking area at the end of Old Cedar Avenue in Bloomington. This photo was taken at the crest of the flood, showing that the water came up to the bottom of the truss spans. This is just slightly higher than the spring flood, but well below the crest of the 2001 flood where the bridge deck was submerged.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
The photo above is a view looking west out of the passenger window of a car traveling southbound on the Cedar Avenue Bridge. This photo was taken the morning of the flood crest showing that there is no gap between the bridge steel and the water. The photo below is looking south down the length of the bride with a telephoto lens. The telephoto compresses the distance making the bridge look much shorter than it really is. It gives us a closer view of the fence on the far end, and we can see just a small piece of the steel on the new Cedar Avenue bridge between the two trees in the background.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These two photos are views looking through the bridge deck where the wood planks have been removed. We see the water right at the bottom of the steel. I was able to comfortably stand under this section of the bridge prior to the flood, which puts the water about a dozen feet above normal river levels. It is amazing to contemplate how much water was involved in this flood if you consider that the river flats are about a mile wide at this location, the flood is about 12 feet above normal, and the impacted area was over 30 miles long.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
The Minnesota River flooded twice during the spring of 2011. These two photos were taken in mid-May, between the two floods. The photo above is the west side of the Long Meadow Bridge, seen from the parking lot at the north end of the bridge site. The photo below is looking south along the east face of the bridge from near the waterline.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
I have long lamented that there was no view of the sides of the Long Meadow Bridge. In late 2010, I discovered that there was a wildlife viewing platform located just 1,000 feet upstream of the bridge spans. The photo above is the boardwalk leading out to the platform, while the photo below is the platform itself. While I would like to think that my lobbying paid off, it turns out that this platform had been in place for at least a decade, and I simply never noticed. This platform had been under several feet of water only two weeks earlier, and it would again be submerged within two weeks after my visit.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
The photo above is the southern three spans of the Long Meadow Bridge as seen from the trail leading out to the wildlife viewing platform. The photo below is a closer view of one of the bridge piers as seen from the boardwalk leading to the viewing platform. The aircraft is a Boeing 757 operated by Delta Airlines. It is less than two miles from touching down on runway 35 at the Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Airport.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
The photo above is a view looking northeast towards the upstream west face of the Long Meadow Bridge, as seen from the wildlife viewing platform on a very rare blue sky afternoon. The photo below is the northernmost truss span. The new Cedar Avenue Bridge is visible behind the Long Meadow Bridge structure.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These two photos are the second (above) and third (below) truss spans, counting from north to south.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
These two photos are the fourth (above) and fifth (below) truss spans, counting from north to south.

Long Meadow Bridge
Long Meadow Bridge
The photo above is the second and third bridge spans. The photo below includes the middle three bridge spans. This series of photos were all taken from the wildlife observation deck located just upstream of the Long Meadow Bridge.

Long Meadow Bridge

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