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John A. Weeks III
Saturday, July 26, 2014, 6:09:53 AM CDT
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Cedar Avenue Bridge
MN-77 Minnesota River Crossing
Bloomington, MN to Eagan, MN

Cedar Avenue Bridge

Northbound Span
• Structure ID: NBI: 9600N.
• Length: 5,159 Feet Overall, 350 Foot Main Span.
 
Southbound Span
• Structure ID: NBI: 9600S.
• Length: 5,185 Feet Overall, 350 Foot Main Span.
 
Statistics Common To Both Spans
• Location: River Mile 7.9.
• River Elevation: 686 Feet.
• Highway: MN-77.
• Daily Traffic Count: 46,500 (1996).
• Bridge Type: Steel Tied Arch Suspended Deck.
• Width: 56 Feet Per Span, 3 Lanes Per Span.
• Navigation Channel Width: 331 Feet.
• Height Above Water: 55 Feet.
• Date Built: Opened 1979.
The Cedar Avenue Bridge is a pair of twin spans consisting of large steel arch spans, flanked by long concrete girder causeways. The bridge spans the Minnesota River valley, including large wetland areas on each side of the main channel. These are certainly the most impressive bridge structures in the Twin Cities area. In fact, the Cedar Avenue Bridge is the longest bridge in Minnesota that is entirely within the state. The only other bridge in Minnesota that is in this league is the US-2 Bong Bridge in Duluth.

The Cedar Avenue Bridge uses a tied arch for the main spans. A tied arch has a large arch that connect to suspension cables. The suspension cables hold up the bridge deck. A tied arch has horizontal tie beams that connect to the two ends of each arch. The tie beams keep the arch from spreading out wider under the weight of the bridge deck. Since the arch will not get wider, the bridge piers only need to support the vertical weight of the bridge rather than having to push sideways against the arches. This allows the bridge to use much smaller and lighter piers under the arch spans.

The bridge is marked for three lanes of traffic, plus a wide shoulder on the outside of each span. Transit buses are allowed to use the bridge shoulders, so the bridge operates with four lanes on each span. This bridge often backs up northbound in the morning due to a number of slow exits north of the bridge. It is not unusual for morning traffic to back up all the way into Apple Valley. In addition, traffic from I-35E backs up on the loop to Cedar Avenue, and often back into the collector/distributor lanes. Now that the MN-100 ‘Ease The Squeeze’ project is complete, this is probably the single worst traffic issue in the twin cities metro area.

Dakota County and the Metropolitan Council are attempting to address the traffic problem on Cedar Avenue. Highway MN-77 saw a large increase in traffic between 1998 and 2002, with traffic levels as high as 60,000 vehicles per day using the Cedar Avenue Bridge. As of 2011, it is estimated that as many as 155,000 cars per day use some portion of Cedar Avenue, and population of Dakota County cities along the Cedar Avenue cooridor is expected grow between 50% and 100% by 2025. The plan moving forward is to build a Bus Rapid Transit line along Cedar Avenue. It will operate much like a light rail system using dedicated highway lanes and a limited number of passenger stations. The system, called the Red Line, will begin operation on September 24, 2012, running between Dakota county highway 70 and the Mall of America. Passengers can then board the Hiawatha Line light rail, now known as the Blue Line, while some busses will continue on to downtown Minneapolis or Saint Paul. Also under consideration is adding HOT lane for high occupancy vehicles and those willing to pay a toll to use an express lane.

A controversy errupted in 1977 during the consturction of the fill leading to the south end of the Cedar Avenue Bridge. A private land owner sold the rights to remove fill from a parcel located near highway MN-13 and Silver Bell Road. This parcel was known to contain a Native American burial ground, which remains having previosly been discovered in the 1940s. While Minnesota had a law for handling remains, it didn't apply to private property. The owner of the property was not concerned with the remains, so the construction project moved forward. The site was over 90% disturbed before archeologists became involved, causing the destruction of a number of gravesites. This act of desecration led to the adoption of new laws in 1980 to protect Native American graves and the general operation of cemeteries, laws that have since been strengthed several times.

The photo above is looking northeast towards the parallel main span arches of the Cedar Avenue Bridge. The vantage point is the parking lot at the boat landing on the south side of the main river channel within Fort Snelling State Park. The photo below is looking northwest towards the main river spans. The vantage point is an overlook on the ramps leading to the bicycle bridge that is attached to the east side of the main river span.


Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
The photo above is the view looking north between the two bridge spans from the Fort Snelling State Park parking lot on the south side of the main river channel. The photo below is the west face of the eastern span as seen from ground level. The bridge deck is about 50 feet above the ground. The bicycle bridge can be seen on the far side of this span.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
These two photos are looking south across the main channel of the Minnesota River from a location between the two bridge spans. The photo above is the upriver west face of the northbound (eastern) span. The photo below is the downriver east face of the southbound (western) span. The island in the middle of the river can be reached by walking over the bicycle bridge that is attached to the side of the northbound bridge span.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
These two photos are views from the two main channel tied arch spans as seen from the island on the north side of the main river channel. The view is looking southeast from two different angles. The pavement in the photo below is the roadway that carried traffic between the two segments of the old Cedar Avenue Bridge.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
These two photos are views looking north under the concrete girder spans on the north side of the main river channel as the bridge crosses the island between the main river channel and backchannel marshes. The photo above is the northbound span, while the photo below is the southbound span. These photos were taken from the ramp leading to the bicycle bridge.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
The photo above is looking north between the two concrete girder roadways. The bridge crosses the river at an angle to true north, so it needs to make a curve to line up with northbound Cedar Avenue on the Bloomington side of the river. The photo below is the first concrete girder spans located north of the main channel arch spans.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
These two photos are views of the west face of concrete girder spans near the north end of the structure. The photo above is an overview photo, while the photo below is a close view of the spans located near the abutment at the north end of the bridge. The vantage point is along Old Cedar Avenue leading to the south end of the Long Meadow Bridge.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
The photo above is one of the bridge piers that supports the concrete girder spans. The photo below is a close view of a joint where two sets of girders meet at a bridge pier. The gap between the girders allows the bridge to move slightly as it expands and contracts due to temperature changes.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
The photo above is a view of the joint between the arch and the horizontal tie beam at the southeast corner of the northbound span. The chain link fence is part of the bicycle bridge railing. The photo below is a view of the main bridge span piers on the south side of the Minnesota River. Red and green lights hang under the bridge to mark the navigation channel.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
The photo above is a close view of a bridge bearing on top of a main channel pier. Bearings allow the bridge to move slightly. This end is fixed in place, but it allows the joint to flex. The bearings on the north side of the channel are allowed to slide back and forth. This helps prevent the bridge from flexing and twisting as it undergoes temperature changes. The photo below is a close view of a pair of suspension cables as they attach to the arch.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
These two photos are the first of a three photo set showing a typical river crossing heading northbound towards Bloomington. In the photo above, we are cresting the high point in the bridge just prior to entering the main river channel span. The photo below is a view from under the giant arch.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
The photo above is the third of three photos showing a typical crossing of the Minnesota River heading northbound. In this photo, we have just passed under the main arch and are heading into Bloomington. The photo below is an overview of the river crossing as seen from the County Highway CSAH-1 bridge on the north end of the bridge.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
The photo above is an older photo that is scanned from a print. It shows traffic approaching the main bridge spans very late in the evening in the summer. Despite traffic heading southbound, the shadow of my vehicle is visible. This is due to the sun being very far north at this hour of the day in the summer. The photo below is an interpretive sign located at the parking lot at the Long Meadow Bridge, an old bridge that formerly carried Cedar Avenue across the Minnesota River.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
These two photos, and the four that follow, are views from the spring flood of 2010. The photo above is looking south along the downriver east face of the Cedar Avenue bridge. The main river channel flows under the arches in the distance. The photo below is a view of the north shore of Long Meadow Lake near the north bridge abutment. The area under the bridge is generally swampy, with a large island starting near the trees in the distance.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
The photo above is a view looking south between the two bridge span, while the photo below is a view of the east face of the southbound bridge structure.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
These two photos are views from the north end of the Cedar Avenue bridges. The photo above is the abutment of the southbound span, with the northbound span visible in the background. The photo below is looking west under the southbound span while standing under the northbound span. Hog Ridge trail runs along the bluffs on the north side of the river. It can be accessed from the parking lot at the south end of Old Cedar Avenue.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
The Minnesota River flooded again twice in the spring of 2011. These two photos were taken in mid-May, 2011, during the period between the two floods. While the water was not back down to normal levels, it is considerably lower than during the flood crest. The photo above is looking south along the west face of the southbound spans. The photo below are the bridge piers at the north end of the structure.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
The photo above is the west face of the north abutment of the southbound bridge span. The photo below is looking northbound along the east edge of the north bridge abutment for the northbound bridge span. The overhead traffic sign gantry includes an electronic message sign, part of the smart highway system in the Twin Cities area.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
These two photos were taken from near the west side of the north bridge abutment. In the photo above, we are looking across the traffic lanes as the curve southeast towards the main channel tied arch spans. In the photo below, we are looking down the west face of the southbound bridge span.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
The photo above is a telephoto view looking south between the two parallel bridge spans. The telephoto view compresses distance, making the bridge spans appear shorter than they actually are. Note the strcuture just sticking out of the water at the far end of Long Meadow Lake. This appears to be the remains of a trestle that was used during the construction of this portion of the bridge. The photo below is a wide angle view of the concrete girder spans of the Cedar Avenue Bridge looking to the east from near the north abutment of the nearby Long Meadow Bridge.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
These two photos are two more views of the concrete girder spans as seen from near the north abutment of the Long Meadow Bridge. This view shows the west face of the southbound spans, with the northbound spans sitting directly behind the southbound spans.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
In June, 2011, I decided to venture out under the concrete girder spans to see if I could get to the structure that sits between the two parallel bridge spans on the south edge of Long Meadow Lake, located on the north side of the main bridge spans. These two photos, and the 8 that follow, are from that late evening trek through the swamp. The photo above is looking south across the Minnesota River along the west face of the southbound bridge span, while the photo below is looking southeast towards the two tied arch spans.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
These two photos are views from under and between the two concrete girder trestles. Both photos are looking north. THe photo above is looking between the two spans, with the southbound span located on the left. The photo below is looking towards the northbound span. The land here is a sea of swamp grass, but there is fairly well worn trail that was created by the graffiti artists.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
These two photos are two of my favorites of the outdoor urban art that is displayed on many of the bridge piers. I am especially impressed with the sharp edges on the outlines in the piece shown above, something that seems like it would be difficult to do with an ordinary spary can. While the artwork on the nearby Interstate highway I-494 Bridge are much larger, on the Cedar Avenue Bridge, the pieces are smaller but far more numerous.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
Here are two more of my favorite pieces of outdoor urban art from under the Cedar Avenue Bridge. The work above is done with fluorescent colored paint, which looks great in person, but it didn't photograph as well. The work below is another example that features very tight and well defined outlines. Given the size of these pieces and the amount of paint it would take, it must be a bit of an undertaking for someone to hike out do this style of painting.

Cedar Avenue Bridge
Cedar Avenue Bridge
These two photos show the remains of a temporary construction bridge that was built to support the construction of the concrete girder spans over part of Long Meadow Lake. The remains are about 400 feet long and 20 feet wide. There is an island at the far end of the steelwork. People have been crossing this to get to the island as evidenced by the graffiti on the bridge piers. The water was still pretty deep due to the spring high water, and it will likely flood again just after my visit due to additional heavy rainfall. It might not get dry enough until late fall or the summer of 2012 before I would venture to the middle. I suspect that the north side of the lake is deeper, which allowed barges to be used rather than extending the trestle all the way across the lake. It is also possible that the trestle did cross the lake, but that would raise the question of why this section was left in place.

Cedar Avenue Bridge

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