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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
F. W. Cappelen Memorial Bridge
Franklin Avenue Mississippi River Crossing
Minneapolis, MN

F. W. Cappelen Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI: 2441.
• Location: River Mile 851.5.
• River Elevation: 725 Feet.
• Highway: Hennepin Co 5, Franklin Avenue.
• Daily Traffic Count: 9,800 (2002).
• Bridge Type: Steel Reinforced Concrete Arch.
• Length: 1,054 Feet, 400 Foot Longest Span.
• Width: 4 Traffic Lanes.
• Navigation Channel Width: 275 Feet.
• Height Above Water: 55 Feet.
• Date Built: Opened December 7, 1923, Rebuilt 1971—1973.
The F.W. Cappelen Memorial Bridge spans the Mississippi River at Franklin Avenue. This huge graceful 400 foot long steel reinforced concrete arch bridge featured the longest such arch of any bridge in the world when it was built. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November, 28, 1978.

Frederick W. Cappelen is one of the great names from the golden age of bridge building. As the City Engineer for the City of Minneapolis, Cappelen designed many of the monumental bridges from the early 20th century. Cappelen passed away during the construction of the Franklin Avenue Bridge. The bridge was named in his honor as a tribute.

The Cappelen Bridge saw little maintenance during its early life. At the time, bridges were considered to be monuments that would last forever. But that turned out not to be true. By 1970, the Cappelen Bridge was in such poor shape that it had to be closed down. The bridge was stripped down to its main arches and rebuilt from 1971 to 1973. When it was rebuilt, engineers calculated that the original bridge was vastly overbuilt, and needed only half as many vertical supports. That plan was followed, and the rebuilt bridge looks much more streamlined as a result. Finally, in the rebuilding, the horizontal stringers were built wider and a 4-lane deck with wide sidewalks was installed. With adequate care, the rebuilt structure could last several hundred years.

The photo above is a view of the Cappelen Bridge as seen from the sidewalk on the East River Parkway. The riverbank near the bridge has a dense growth of brush, which makes the bridge structure very hard to see.


F. W. Cappelen Bridge
The photo above is a view from the sidewalk level at the east end looking towards the west. The photo below is taken from the West River Parkway, looking south through one of the spans of the I-94 Dartmouth Bridge. The Milwaukee Road Short Line Bridge is visible under the main span of the Cappelen Bridge, and the Lake Street Bridge is barely visible behind the Short Line Bridge.

F. W. Cappelen Bridge
F. W. Cappelen Bridge
The photo above is a view of the main river span looking towards the south almost directly into the midday sun. While the bright sun reduces the contrast of the photo, it does make for a nice shadow on the surface of the great river. The photo below is a view looking through the gap between the two parallel arches that support the bridge. The light reflecting off of the surface of the water makes for an interesting color pattern on the surface of the concrete.

F. W. Cappelen Bridge
F. W. Cappelen Bridge
These two photos are views of the main span bridge piers. The photo above is the eastern main span pier, while the photo below is the western main span pier. Both photo are looking towards the west from the edge of the river on the east bank of the Mississippi.

F. W. Cappelen Bridge
F. W. Cappelen Bridge
These two photos are slightly different views of the main span arch. A boat is passing under the arch in each photo, southbound in the photo above, and northbound in the photo below. Piers from an older bridge are visible on each side of the navigation channel.

F. W. Cappelen Bridge
F. W. Cappelen Bridge
The photo above is the smaller arch that flanks the main span on the east end of the structure as seen from near the river level. The photo below is a view of the structure as it is anchored to the river bluffs on the east side of the Mississippi River.

F. W. Cappelen Bridge
F. W. Cappelen Bridge
The photo above is taken from the East River Parkway. It shows just how dense the brush is, and how hard it is to see the bridge structure. The photo below is the first of 3 photos showing a typical crossing of the Cappelen Bridge over the Mississippi River traveling from west to east.

F. W. Cappelen Bridge
F. W. Cappelen Bridge
These two photos are the second and third of three views of a typical bridge crossing traveling west to east. In the photo above, we are just cresting the hump over the main span. In the photo below, we are nearing the end of the bridge. The orange cones on the bridge are left over from the 2008 Twin Cities Marathon, where they were used to block off a traffic lane to be used by the runners.

F. W. Cappelen Bridge

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