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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Wakota Bridge (Old)
Former I-494 Mississippi River Crossing
South Saint Paul, MN to Saint Paul Park, MN

I-494 Wakota Bridge (Old)

• Structure ID: NBI: 5993.
• Location: River Mile 832.40.
• River Elevation: 686 Feet.
• Highway: I-494.
• Daily Traffic Count: 89,000 (2002).
• Bridge Type: Steel Arch Suspended Deck.
• Length: 1,870 Feet, 421 Foot Longest Span.
• Width: 4 Traffic Lanes, 69 Feet.
• Navigation Channel Width: 407 Feet.
• Height Above Water: 63 Feet.
• Date Built: Opened November 1959.
Located near the old South Saint Paul Stockyards, the old Wakota Bridge has been a southeast metro area landmark since it was built. While the bridge was still sound, it was simply overwhelmed by traffic, with significant backups many hours each day. Once the first span of the new Wakota Bridge was opened to traffic, the this bridge was removed during the winter of 2006 and 2007 to make room for the second span of the new Wakota Bridge.

While the word Wakota sounds like the name of a Native American band, it actually came from a 1960 bridge naming contest. Wakota was suggested by a grade school girl. It is a combination of Washington and Dakota, the two counties on either end of the bridge.

The old Wakota Bridge is an example of a tied-arch bridge. The main span is supported by a large steel arch. The bottom ends of the arch are tied together by a long horizontal steel beam. This keeps the arch from sagging and having the ends push themselves off of the top of the main piers. The deck is suspended under the arch by a series of vertical supports. In this case, those supports are steel beams. The other three tied-arch bridges that cross the Mississippi River all use cables as the vertical support for the traffic deck.

This bridge was refurbished and modified in the early 1990s. In addition to sand-blasting and painting, the west end of the bridge was widened to make room for merging lanes for the freeway interchange for Hardman Avenue. The west abutment was made wider. New piers were added, and the existing piers were modified to carry two new plate girders on the south side of the structure. This resulted in several interesting pier configurations. The most interesting is the steel supports at the west end of the bridge. Due to a railroad track and a street that pass under the bridge, it was not possible to install a pier under the new steel beams. The solution to the problem was to build several smaller piers, and install a support beam crosswise under the main bridge beams to support those main beams.

The photo above shows the old bridge while it was still in operation. The westbound span of the new bridge is visible behind the old bridge. The photo below is a view of the bridge project traveling eastbound from Inver Grove Heights towards the Mississippi River. One lane of the new bridge is open at this point, but most traffic is still using the old bridge.

I-494 Wakota Bridge (Old)
I-494 Wakota Bridge (Old)
These two photos show views from a typical river crossing heading west to east. In the photo above, we are just entering the bridge. Hardman Avenue is entering from the right. In the photo below, we are approaching the main span arch.

I-494 Wakota Bridge (Old)
I-494 Wakota Bridge (Old)
These photos are two more views from 2006 while the old bridge was still in operation. The photo above is a view from the regional bicycle trail that runs under the bridge. Note the detail on the nearest pier. This pier was made wider to accommodate a longer merge lane on the Hardman Avenue entrance ramp. Two smaller girder were placed on the edge of the pier, and the pier was filled in to make it stronger.

The photo below is a view from the boat ramp and park just south of the old bridge. The yellow equipment on top of the bridge is actually on the new bridge, not the old bridge. These yellow machines are form travelers, and the move out over the edge of the bridge to allow more bridge structure to be built from concrete.

I-494 Wakota Bridge (Old)
I-494 Wakota Bridge (Old)
The photo above shows an unusual detail of the bridge. When it was rebuilt in 1988, the entrance and exit ramps for the interchanges on each end of the bridge were flared into the bridge to lengthen the acceleration and deceleration areas. On the southwest corner of the bridge, it was impossible to make the pier wider to accommodate adding the steel to make the bridge wider. That was due to a rail line that ran under that section of the bridge. To solve the problem, two small piers were built, and a steel beam was set parallel to the rail line. That steel beam carried the girders that formed the wider entrance ramp from Hardman Avenue.

The photo below is a view of the bridge removal from the winter of 2006 and 2007. The concrete deck and railings have been removed from the main span and the western approaches.

I-494 Wakota Bridge (Old)
I-494 Wakota Bridge (Old)
These two photos are more views of the old bridge being removed in the winter of 2006 and 2007. In the photo above, we can see that a few girders remain on the east end, and a small part of the arch is still present. In the photo below, the arch has been fully removed, and half of each main channel girder has been removed. The remainder of the bridge is being supported by temporary piers. Note that part of the bridge on the east side of the river crossing has not been removed. That section of bridge is being used as a landing zone and staging area for the project.

I-494 Wakota Bridge (Old)

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