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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
I-494 Bridge
I-494 Minnesota River Crossing
Bloomington, MN to Mendota Heights, MN

I-494 Bridge

Eastbound Span
• Structure ID: NBI: 9217E.
• Length: 4,509 Feet.
 
Westbound Span
• Structure ID: NBI: 9217W.
• Length: 4,393.7 Feet.
 
Statistics Common To Both Spans
• Location: River Mile 4.2.
• River Elevation: 686 Feet.
• Highway: I-494.
• Daily Traffic Count: 44,000 (1996).
• Bridge Type: Concrete Girder With Steel Girder Main Span.
• Width: 55 Feet Per Span, 3 Lanes Per Span.
• Navigation Channel Width: 230 Feet.
• Height Above Water: 55 Feet.
• Date Built: Opened 1982.
I-494 Bridge over the Minnesota River is located directly southeast of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. The Minnesota River is navigable by riverboat traffic at this point, so the west end of the bridge was raised high enough to allow small tow boats to clear at normal water levels.

The highway mile markers on this bridge are interesting, at least to the road geek. I-494 and I-694 share a common set of mile markers. These mile markers do not start where these highways meet, as expected. Rather, the zero mile marker is on I-494 at the Minnesota River. The mile markers go up as you head west past the MSP Airport and continue to climb as you travel clockwise around the 494/694 loop. The last exit heading west on I-494 before the zero marker is Exit 71, Pilot Knob Road.

Prior to this section of I-494 opening in the mid-1980's, I-494 was routed up MN-5 past the MSP Airport, then on MN-110 across the Mendota Bridge. The traffic was routed back onto I-494 just west of the present day US-52 interchange, where it would continue east across the Mississippi River over the Wakota Bridge.

The photo above is looking east from a flyover ramp at the west end of the I-494 Bridge. The photo below is the north face of several bridge spans over the river flood plain as seen from an overlook within Fort Snelling State Park located along old highway MN-13.


I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
These two photos are the first of three photos showing a typical river crossing heading westbound from Mendota Heights towards Bloomington. The photo above is just entering the eastern end of the bridge. Notice the mile marked on the Minnesota River guide sign. It is mile zero, which is the base point for exit numbers on the I-494 and I-694 ring route around the Twin Cities. The photo below is about one-third of the way across the bridge.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
The photo above is the third of three photos showing a typical river crossing using the I-494 Bridge. In this photo, we are nearing the west end of the structure. The photo below is a profile view of the eastern section of the I-494 Bridge as it crosses the river flood plain. The two river channels are located off of the left edge of this photo.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
These two photos are views of the west end of the I-494 bridge from the bicycle trail attached to the south side of the eastbound structure. In the upper photo, we see that the landscape drops off quickly beyond the bridge abutment. In the photo below, we can see the entire length of the bridge. The bridge has a slight S-curve shape, which is not readily apparent when driving over the structure at highway speeds.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
The photo above is the guard rail between the traffic lanes and the bicycle trail at the bridge abutment. Despite the opening of this section of I-494 still being fresh in my mind, the bridge is approaching 30 years old. Some aspects of the bridge are showing its age, such as the broken concrete at this location. The photo below is a sign attached to the railing a bit further to the east indicating that a fiber optic cable has been fished through the bridge rail. This seems like an odd place to install a fiber cable. I would expect it to be in a cableway under the bridge. Given the length and the height of the bridge, installing a new fiber cableway likely would have been very expensive.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
The photo above is looking back to the west from the bicycle path near the west end of the bridge. The entrance ramp is from 34th Avenue, and the overpasses are for Hennepin County Highway 5. The photo below is looking north across the bridge from the center of the main river span. The MSP Airport is located to the left of the river channel.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
The photo above is looking south from the main river span. The Minnesota River is navigable for several miles upriver from the I-494 Bridge. The photo below is a side channel that runs a bit east of the main river channel. This was once the main river channel, but it is now the remnant of an oxbow curve. Since the river picked a new channel, this channel has been filling with sentiment.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
The photo above is looking east towards the east end of the bridge from the bicycle path on the south side of the eastbound bridge span. Interstate highway I-494 passes over Minnesota Highway MN-13 about a half mile to the east, then climbs a grade out of the river valley towards Pilot Knob Road and Interstate Highway I-35E. The photo below is looking west towards the east end of the eastbound structure.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
These two photos are views of the south face of the eastbound span. The photo above is a view from just below the level of the bridge deck. The photo below is from a vantage point located 200 feet south of the bridge and just above the water level. There is a large shallow lake located to the south of the east end of the I-494 bridge.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
The photo below is a close view of one of the bridge piers supporting the concrete girder spans. A small channel flows under the bridge at this location connecting the lake to the south to the marsh located north of the bridge. The photo below is looking west from under the center of the bridge. The bright white line in the center of the photo is the gap between the two parallel bridge spans.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
These two photos are views looking west from the bicycle path attached to the south side of the eastbound bridge span. The photo above is from near the east end of the structure. The photo below is a view from the middle of the bridge span. The green and brown overhead sign informs travelers that the next exit leads to the National Cemetery and the Nation Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
The photo above is looking down at an access road that runs along the east side of the secondary river channel. This road is used by state park maintenance vehicles. The photo below is the joint between the river channel span and the concrete girder spans. While the deck features an expansion joint, the bridge railing incorporates telescoping metal sections that are able to move as the bridge expands and contracts.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
The photo above is the westernmost span of the eastbound bridge structure. The westbound span ends where the first eastbound pier is located, accounting for the difference in length between the two parallel structures. The photo below is one of the westernmost of the full-height bridge piers.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
The photo above is looking east between the two bridge structures from near the west end of the I-494 bridge. The photo below is looking back to the west towards the west end of the I-494 bridge. The fence visible in these two photos cordons off a small depression that holds runoff to prevent it from draining directly into the Minnesota River. These runoff ponds have been very successful in helping to improve the water quality in the river.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
These two photos are views of the steel plate girder spans over the main channel of the Minnesota River. The photo above is an overview shot, while the photo below is a close view of the center span over the river. While these bridge piers have a similar design to the piers supporting the concrete girder spans, note that they have additional width above the waterline to protect the bridge from barge traffic.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
These two photos are views of the underside of the bridge. The photo above is the underside of a plate steel girder span. The photo below is a close view of the interface between the steel and concrete spans on the west side of the main river channel.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
The photo above is an example of the graffiti located under the I-494 bridge. The graffiti painted on nearly every bridge pier is very intricate in design. In fact, it might be better termed ‘large format outdoor art’ than graffiti. The artwork is very tastefully done and shows a high degree of skill. It is well worth the hike down to this location to look at this artwork. The photo below is a view looking east along the east face of the bridge as seen from just below the bridge deck level on the west side of the I-494 bridge.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
These two photos are views of a paved access road used by MN-DOT and National Wildlife Refuge employees. It exits off of I-494, but is blocked by a chain link fence gate. The road runs along the north side of the east bridge abutment, then crosses under the bridge and runs along the south side of the structure all the way to the east channel of the Minnesota River. From there, trails go north to the Mendota Bridge and south to the Cedar Avenue Bridge. The photo above is looking west along the north face of the bridge, while the photo below is looking east towards the bridge abutment.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
The I-494 Bridge splits Gun Club Lake into two smaller lakes, with this channel connecting the two sections of lake. The channel is under the second bridge span from the east end of the structure. The photo above is looking southeast under the bridge, while the photo below is the downstream end of the channel n the north side of the structure. Both photos includes views of the culverts where the access road crosses the channel.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
These two photos are views of the downstream side of the access road culverts over the small channel that connects the two halves of Gun Club Lake. The photo above is looking north into the refuge, while the photo below is looking south towards the access road. The northern lake section is about two feet lower than the southern lake section.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
The photo above is looking towards the east bridge abutment from under the second set of bridge piers at the east end of the structure. The small channel under this bridge span connects the two halves of Gun Club Lake. The photo below is looking east along the access road under the south edge of the bridge. The access road is gravel on this side of the bridge.

I-494 Bridge
I-494 Bridge
The photo above is a view looking under the I-494 Bridge from the access road that runs along the south side of the bridge on the east side of the Minnesota River. This area was flooded upwards of ten feet deep much of the spring and early summer of 2011. MN-DOT had recently painted over the bridge graffiti, but it didn't take long for the outdoor artists to return after the water retreated (photo below).

I-494 Bridge

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