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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Plymouth Avenue Bridge
Plymouth Avenue Mississippi River Crossing
Minneapolis, MN

Plymouth Avenue Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI: 27611.
• Location: River Mile 855.00.
• River Elevation: 801 Feet.
• Highway: Plymouth Avenue.
• Daily Traffic Count: 7,900 (2001).
• Bridge Type: Post-Tensioned Concrete Box Girder.
• Length: 944 Feet, 141 Foot Longest Span.
• Width: 4 Traffic Lanes, 70 Feet.
• Navigation Channel Width: 141 Feet.
• Height Above Water: 24 Feet.
• Date Built: Opened 1983.
The Minnesota Historical Society reports that the first bridge at this location was a wood truss bridge built in 1873. This bridge was part of a merger deal between the City of Minneapolis and the City of Saint Anthony, which occupied opposite sides of the Mississippi River. When the two cities merged, they agreed to build two bridges, one upstream of the falls, and one downstream of the falls. The bridge at Plymouth Avenue was known as the Upper Bridge.

The 1873 wood bridge was replaced with an iron truss bridge in 1886. That bridge was rebuilt in 1913, and remodeled again in 1952 and 1953. The 1950s project raised the bridge to allow small two boats and barges to travel under the bridge. By the late 1970s, the iron bridge was badly deteriorated. It was closed in 1981, and removed shortly after it was closed.

The current Plymouth Avenue Bridge opened in 1983. It was built by casting the concrete in place. Forms would be extended past the end of the bridge, concrete would be poured, and after the concrete was cured, the new section of bridge would be used as the work platform for the next section of the bridge. Once the concrete was in place, large cables were routed from end to end inside the bridge, and cable jacks were used to stretch the cables to a high tension. This has the effect of squeezing the bridge together, making the structure act like a single large beam.

The Plymouth Avenue Bridge was the first post-tensioned concrete box bridge in the state. Since it was built, variations on that method have been used on the new I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Wabasha Street Bridge, and the Wakota Bridge.

Update—The Plymouth Avenue Bridge was closed on Friday, October 22, 2010, when serious corrosion was found on the post-tensioning cables. While the was still strong enough to hold itself up, it was felt that it might not be strong enough to safely carry vehicle traffic. It was also closed to pedestrians.

Update—A consultant was hired to evaluate the problem. On Tuesday, December 28, 2010, the Minneapolis City Engineer announced that that about one-quarter of the cables need to be replaced. This will cost upwards of $10-million. Assuming the money can be found, that pushes the bridge opening into the spring of 2012. Some residents have questioned the fact that the bridge was closed given that 250 tons of snow landed on the bridge during a 20-inch blizzard on the weekend of December 11 and 12, and the bridge did not collapse. The consultants, however, suggest that traffic would cause flexing of the bridge that could cause additional damage. They did give the OK to open the bridge to pedestrian traffic, which is expected to happen the first week of 2011.

Update—plan for repairing the Plymouth Avenue Bridge has been published. Repairs will begin in July, 2012, to fix the main bridge spans. The bridge will be reopened to traffic in October, 2012, but repairs to the side spans will continue through the summer of 2013. The bridge remains open to pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

Update—the Plymouth Avenue Bridge reopened to vehicle traffic on October 15, 2021, with one lane open in each direction. Repairs have been completed on the south side of the structure, with the lanes on the north side remaining closed. All lanes will be open during the winter. Work will continue next summer on the north side of the bridge, where those lanes will again be closed until September, 2013.

The photo above is a view of the Plymouth Avenue Bridge looking southeast from the park along the West River Parkway. This location is about a mile upstream of Saint Anthony Falls. The photo below is a view of the Plymouth Avenue Bridge looking upstream from the northern tip of Nicollet Island.


Plymouth Avenue Bridge
Plymouth Avenue Bridge
The photo above is the first of three photos showing a typical crossing of the Plymouth Avenue Bridge heading eastbound from the west side of the Mississippi River. In this view, we are just entering the west end of the bridge. In the photo below, we are cresting the main span over the river channel.

Plymouth Avenue Bridge
Plymouth Avenue Bridge
The photo above is a view exiting the bridge on the east end heading into the Saint Anthony West neighborhood. The photo below is a view of the east end of the bridge from a street level vantage point at the corner of 8th Avenue NE and Sibley Street NE.

Plymouth Avenue Bridge
Plymouth Avenue Bridge
The photo above is a profile view of the Plymouth Avenue bridge. It is taken from the park on the west bank of the Mississippi River. The photo below is a close view of the main navigation channel. Despite having low clearance, small low-profile river boats can move one or two barges at a time through this area of the river.

Plymouth Avenue Bridge
Plymouth Avenue Bridge
These two photo are more views of the structure from the river level. In the photo above, we can see the Boom Island lighthouse, while in the photo below, we see the lumber yard on the northeast side of the structure.

Plymouth Avenue Bridge
Plymouth Avenue Bridge
The photo above shows the west end of the bridge as seen from the trail that runs along the west bank of the Mississippi River. The photo below was taken directly under the west end of the bridge. This view shows that the bridge was built as two parallel concrete boxes holding up the traffic deck as opposed to using steel or concrete girders.

Plymouth Avenue Bridge
Plymouth Avenue Bridge
The photo above is a view of the side of the Plymouth Avenue bridge and the bridge railing taken from street level. The photo below is a view of the traffic deck take from the sidewalk on the southwest corner of the bridge.

Plymouth Avenue Bridge

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