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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Dartmouth Bridge
I-94 Mississippi River Crossing
Minneapolis, MN

I-94 Dartmouth Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI: 9350.
• Location: River Mile 851.70.
• River Elevation: 725 Feet.
• Highway: I-94, US-12, US-52.
• Daily Traffic Count: 157,000 (2002).
• Bridge Type: Steel Girder.
• Length: 1,001 Feet, 340 Foot Longest Span.
• Width: 141 Feet, 4 Traffic + 1 Auxiliary Lanes (Each Direction).
• Navigation Channel Width: 287 Feet.
• Height Above Water: 64 Feet.
• Date Built: Opened 1964, Rebuilt 1994.
The I-94 connection between Minneapolis and Saint Paul was grossly over capacity by the late 1980s. MN-DOT developed a project to reconstruct I-94, but it would be the mid-1990s before that project would be funded and ready to go. Public outcry did not let up as the traffic got worse, so MN-DOT proposed an innovative stop-gap project called Add-A-Lane. Over four weekends in the early 1990s, MN-DOT brought in contractors to work the entire weekends to move curbs, fill in missing roadway, move guard rails, and otherwise make room to paint a 3rd through lane on I-94. The project essentially added 50% to the highway capacity in one month.

The reconstruction project was eventually completed in the mid-1990s. Part of that project was to rebuild the Dartmouth bridge over the Mississippi River, making it wider and adding auxiliary lanes and shoulders. The rebuild was completed in stages without having to close the bridge. First step was to modify the piers and abutments to make them wider. Then new steel girders were placed on the outside of of the existing span resting on the wider piers. The new outside lanes were then completed. Once the outside lanes were ready, the existing lanes were removed and rebuilt, one side at a time. The net result is that the bridge was totally rebuilt in place without ever closing the bridge to highway traffic. This is quite a feat of engineering when you consider that this is the busiest highway bridge in the state of Minnesota and the busiest highway bridge anywhere on the Mississippi River.

The newly rebuilt Dartmouth Bridge was painted to support three through traffic lanes in each direction, plus an auxiliary lane on the outside, and reasonable shoulders to accommodate breakdowns. After the I-35W bridge collapse, the I-35W traffic was detoured onto I-94 and MN-280. To handle this additional traffic, MN-DOT repainted I-94 to add an additional lane. The Dartmouth Bridge carried 4 through lanes each way, an exit lane on each edge, and very little room for shoulders. After the new I-35W bridge was opened, the lanes were adjusted slightly. While there are still 5 slightly narrow lanes in each direction, one lane headed westbound now has a forced exit onto Riverside Ave. This small change has resulted in unexpectedly large traffic backups, so this configuration may change once again.

The Dartmouth bridge was built to look much like the mainline I-94 freeway. As a result, you hardly notice that you are crossing one of the major waterways of the world. Critics have described the bridge as being uninspired. An engineer would counter that the ideal bridge is one that you do not even notice when you are using it. Given all the spectacular bridges in the area, any freeway bridge would have a hard time competing for attention.

The photo at the top of this page is a profile view taken from the Cappelen Memorial Bridge (Franklin Avenue). Downtown Minneapolis is in the background on the left, and the University Hospital complex is in the background on the right.

I-94 Dartmouth Bridge
The photo above is a view looking west across the river crossing from the East River Parkway overpass. This photo shows the lane markings prior to the I-35W bridge collapse, which is three through lanes each direction, plus an auxiliary lane and shoulders on each side.

The photo below is a view under the Dartmouth Bridge from the West River Parkway in an area of the city known as Bohemian Flats. The Cappelen Bridge is visible in the background, and the East River Flats Catwalk is visible on the far side of the Mississippi River.

I-94 Dartmouth Bridge
I-94 Dartmouth Bridge
The photo above is the south face of the bridge as seen from the East River Flats Catwalk, a walking bridge that runs under the east end of the Dartmouth Bridge. The photo below is a view under the bridge structure, also from from the catwalk.

I-94 Dartmouth Bridge
I-94 Dartmouth Bridge
The photo above is a view looking directly west under the bridge structure. Notice that the cross-bracing between the bridge girders is different on the outer two girders on each side of the bridge. These girders were added to the structure when it was rebuilt in 1994. The photo below is a view of the anchor point on the river bluff on the east end of the bridge.

I-94 Dartmouth Bridge
I-94 Dartmouth Bridge
The photo above is the main span bridge pier on the east side of the navigation channel. The photo below is a view of the main bridge span. Both photos are looking to the north from the east river bank. The bridge structure near the river level is the East River Flats Catwalk, which supports a walking and bicycle trail along the east river bank.

I-94 Dartmouth Bridge
I-94 Dartmouth Bridge
The photo above is a profile view of the Dartmouth Bridge looking north from the edge of the river on the east river bank. The photo below is the first of three photos showing a typical crossing of the Dartmouth Bridge. In this first view, we are crossing under the East River Parkway overpass, and entering the east end of the bridge heading westbound.

I-94 Dartmouth Bridge
I-94 Dartmouth Bridge
These two photos complete the Mississippi River crossing headed westbound. In the photo above, we are about a third of the way across the bridge. In the photo below, we are nearing the end of the structure. These photos show the lane markings after the new I-35W bridge was completed.

I-94 Dartmouth Bridge

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