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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Mendota Bridge
MN-55 Minnesota River Crossing
Minneapolis, MN to Mendota Heights, MN

Mendota Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI: 4190.
• Location: River Mile 1.9.
• River Elevation: 686 Feet.
• Highway: MN-55.
• Daily Traffic Count: 32,500 (1996).
• Bridge Type: Concrete Arch.
• Length: 4,119 Feet.
• Width: 71 Feet, 4 Lanes.
• Navigation Channel Width: 165 Feet.
• Height Above Water: 74 Feet.
• Date Built: Opened November 8, 1926.
The area near the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers is rich with history. On a geological time frame, waters released at the end of the ice age carved the deep river gorges. In more recent times, this was an important meeting site for local native tribes. Later, it was the site of early settlement in Minnesota, anchored by nearby Fort Snelling.

Prior to this bridge being built, there was a rail line that crossed the Minnesota River at this location. This rail line ran south out of Saint Paul, crossed to the south side of the river on the Omaha Bridge, then branched off the Omaha Line behind the Sibley House (now a historical landmark). From there, a trestle crossed the Minnesota main channel, and the line curved to run between Fort Snelling and the Mississippi River. The rail line eventually ran through Minnehaha Park and into Minneapolis along Hiawatha Avenue. This was the main route between the passenger terminals in Minneapolis and Saint Paul until the Milwaukee Road built a bridge between the Lake Street Bridge and Franklin Avenue. That new route was much shorter than this route, so it was nicknamed the "Short Line", and the new bridge was called the Shortline Bridge.

Due to the settlements in the area and a ferry boat that crossed the Minnesota River, many early roads converged into the area near the confluence of the two river. As a result, it was only natural that this would be the location of a great bridge.

The Mendota Bridge was designed by famous bridge designer C.A.P. Turner, who designed other river bridges in the area including the Arcola High Bridge. The bridge consists of 13 huge reinforced concrete arches. Vertical supports extend upwards from the arches to support a traffic deck that is 4,119 feet long. The Mendota Bridge was the longest concrete arch bridge in the world when it opened in late 1926. Some locals refer to the bridge as the 'Mile Long Bridge', but in fact, the bridge is about 1,100 feet short of being a mile long.

By the late 1980s, the Mendota Bridge was showing its age. In addition, it had narrow lanes, no shoulders, and the sidewalk was not protected from traffic. The bridge was closed in 1992 for repairs. The project completely removed the traffic deck and many of the vertical members. The remaining vertical members and the arches were repaired as needed. A new wider traffic deck was installed. The bridge was reopened in 1994.

The photo above is a view from the parking lot of a church located on the northeast corner of the bridge. This is perhaps the only location where a vast majority of the bridge can be seen from ground level.


Mendota Bridge
These two photos were attempts to capture the full length and height of the bridge in one view. That turns out to be impossible given the trees and vegetation. The photo above is a ground level view of two of the 13 arches. These arches are about 300 feet long by 75 feet tall. The photo below is a view of the tops of 5 arches, which is less than one-half of the bridge.

Mendota Bridge
Mendota Bridge
The photo above is a view of the east end of the bridge as seen from street level. The large building on the far side of the bridge is the Whipple Federal Office Building, which houses, among others, offices for Fish and Wildlife, DOD, and Homeland Security. The photo below is a view of the west end of the bridge looking east.

Mendota Bridge
Mendota Bridge
These two photos are a view of the arch that spans the main channel of the Minnesota River. In the photo above, we have a view of the bridge structure that supports the traffic deck. In the photo below, we see the entire main span as it crosses the river. These photos were taken from the boat landing parking lot looking to the east.

Mendota Bridge
Mendota Bridge
These two photos are views of the bridge structure from under the bridge. The photo above is looking west from the boat landing parking lot. The photo below is looking east from near the Fort Snelling State Park visitors center.

Mendota Bridge
Mendota Bridge
These two photos are the first of six photos that show a typical crossing of the Mendota Bridge heading west from Mendota Heights on the east end of the bridge to Richfield on the west end of the bridge. The photo above is a view of the downhill curve on the east end of the bridge prior to entering the bridge. The photo below is a view just as we enter the east end of the bridge.

Mendota Bridge
Mendota Bridge
These two photos continue our journey across the Mendota Bridge. The photo above is a view from the center of the span over the Minnesota River. The photo below is a view from one-half way across the bridge.

Mendota Bridge
Mendota Bridge
These two photos are the last of six photos showing a typical crossing of the Mendota Bridge. In the photo above, we are three-quarters of the way across the bridge. The photo below is a view just as we exit the bridge. The big green signs overhead give a motorist a number of options, including the MN-62 Crosstown Freeway, MN-55 heading downtown, MN-5 towards the airport, and MN-5 towards Saint Paul. Note the latter exit is a very sharp corner at the very end of the bridge.

Mendota Bridge
Mendota Bridge
The photo above is looking southeast towards one of the spans near the western end of the Mendota Bridge as seen from near the Visitor Center at Fort Snelling State Park. The photo below is looking east along the south side of the Mendota Bridge from a location under the bridge deck near the west bridge abutment.

Mendota Bridge
Mendota Bridge
The photo above is the west abutment of the Mendota Bridge. The photo below is an original bridge plate that is located along the sidewalk near the northwest corner of the structure.

Mendota Bridge
Mendota Bridge
The photo above is a view looking southeast along the regional trail that leads to the sidewalk on the north side of the bridge at the west end of the structure. The photo below is looking east down the length of the north sidewalk and the westbound traffic lanes.

Mendota Bridge
Mendota Bridge
The photo above is a detail view of the concrete supports and metalwork that make up the bridge railing. The photo below is looking east along the north face of the Mendota Bridge.

Mendota Bridge

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Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2014, all rights reserved.
For further information, contact: john@johnweeks.com