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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Lowry Avenue Bridge (Old)
Former Lowry Avenue Mississippi River Crossing
Minneapolis, MN

Lowry Avenue Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI: 2723.
• Location: River Mile 856.40.
• River Elevation: 801 Feet.
• Highway: CSAH-153, Lowry Avenue.
• Daily Traffic Count: 16,600 (2001).
• Bridge Type: Steel Truss Through Deck.
• Length: 889 Feet, 145 Foot Longest Span.
• Width: 4 Traffic Lanes, 57.2 Feet Overall, 40 Foot Roadway.
• Navigation Channel Width: 144 Feet.
• Height Above Water: 33 Feet.
• Date Built: Opened July 1958, Closed April 25, 2008.
The first bridge at this location was built in 1887. A new bridge was built in 1905 featuring 5 steel truss spans. That bridge carried traffic for 51 years until it was deemed to be unsound. The truss spans were replaced in 1958 with 5 new steel trusses, this time, built much heavier. The new trusses were also wider to allow 4 lanes of traffic. In addition, the 1905 era bridge piers were widened, reinforced, and built 20 feet taller to allow river navigation under the bridge in anticipation of barge traffic on this section of the river with the completion of the locks at Saint Anthony Falls in the 1960s.

The 1958 era structure was demolished in the summer of 2009. This page features the 1958 era Lowry Avenue Bridge, the events leading to its closing, and photos from the demolition and removal of the bridge.

Until recently, the Lowry Avenue Bridge was hard to photograph. The west end is sandwiched between two industrial complexes, while the east end has a bunch of trees in the way. The City of Minneapolis started developing a riverside park in 2006 just south of the east entrance to the bridge. That provided a clearing to shoot the photo above. The park was completed in 2008, and features an overlook that has a very nice view of the Lowry Avenue Bridge.

The bridge was closed for a while in 2005 for painting. While doing the paint work, engineers found that one of the piers had shifted 11 inches. In fact, one segment of the bridge was potentially in danger of falling in the river. Divers were sent down to investigate the pier. The conclusion is that they don't know why it shifted, but they think that it is again stable and will not move any further. A new set of bearings had to be manufactured and installed to make the suspect span safe again.

An interesting note that was reported at the time is that crime on the east side of the Mississippi River dropped significantly while the Lowry Bridge was closed in 2005. The Marshall Terrace neighborhood reported a drop in crime of 41 percent, while the Bottineau neighborhood saw a 6 percent decrease in serious crime. At the same time, crime rose significantly on the west side of the river during the bridge closing. The McKinley and Hawthorne neighbors had one of their highest crime rates in history. Some offered the theory that the bridge closure provided a barrier to crime leaking across the river from the North Minneapolis neighborhoods. A Hennepin County Commissioner noted that this change in crime rates was typical of past bridge closings. Opponents of this theory suggested that it was racist in nature due to larger numbers of African Americans living in North Minneapolis, and that the crime numbers were a statistical fluke.

Between the pier problem and near constant repairs needed on the steel grate deck, MN-DOT wants to replace the bridge. So does the City of Minneapolis. The proposal now is to build a signature span using the cable stayed design. The bridge would be the anchor and focal point for a new urban redevelopment project on the west side of the river. The cable stayed bridge would cost in the $35-million range. The legislature has proposed $23 million during the 2007 session, but the state Governor is opposed to any spending for this project.

Update—after an especially warm spring day, MN-DOT inspectors discovered that one set of bridge bearings had once again reached its stop bracket. The stop bracket limits how far the bearing can slide, and it prevents the bridge from sliding off of the pier and falling into the water. Once the span hit the stop bracket, forces from the heating and cooling of the span apparently pushed the problem pier two inches further out of plumb. It also caused some bolts on the structure to shear off. As a result, MN-DOT closed the bridge at 10AM on Friday, April 25, 2008.

The 2008 legislative session pushed though a highway bonding bill. The Lowry Avenue Bridge replacement is one of the high priority projects. The bridge is expected to be started in 2009 and be completed by the end of 2010. The plan is to install a signature span. Finalists include a towering arch design, a single tower cable stayed bridge, and a more routine concrete box bridge.

The photo above was taken in late September, 2008, after the bridge had been closed about 6 months, from the new riverside park just south of the bridge. The photo below is a closer view of the main navigation channel.

Update—the Lowry Bridge demolition project headed to court in late 2008 and early 2009. One group challenged the project stating that the existing bridge could be fixed for $10-million, a savings of over $70-million to the taxpayers compared to the cost of a new bridge. Another group argued that the bridge could not be removed because of its historic status. The court ruled that while the bridge was located in a historic district, the bridge itself is not designated as a historic structure. MN-DOT announced on June 10, 2009, that the bridge would be brought down in a controlled demolition on or about June 21.

Update—the Lowry Bridge was dropped into the Mississippi River on Sunday, June 21, 2009, at 9:08 AM using 198 pounds of explosives. It is expected to take just 24 hours to clear the river navigation channel.


Lowry Avenue Bridge
Lowry Avenue Bridge
The photo above was taken from along the east bank of the Mississippi River. This close view of the main span shows the details of the piers. To reinforce the piers, sheet pile was installed into the river bed. Concrete was poured into area enclosed by the sheet pile, creating a much larger and stronger base for the piers. The photo below is a view of the entire bridge from the same location.

Lowry Avenue Bridge
Lowry Avenue Bridge
These two photos are views of the bridge portal on the east end of the structure. MN-DOT has the bridge blocked with barricades and K-blocks. Even the sidewalk is closed off. Minneapolis city police have issued tickets to people who attempt to cross the bridge.

Lowry Avenue Bridge
Lowry Avenue Bridge
The photo above is a view looking west down the closed sidewalk. The sidewalks on the Lowry Avenue Bridge are interesting in that they are on the outside of the truss structure rather than inside the truss. The photo below is looking west through the truss at the traffic lanes. This is the only remaining steel deck bridge over a major river in the twin cities.

Lowry Avenue Bridge
Lowry Avenue Bridge
The photo above is a detail view of the first truss span. The bridge was painted just prior to being closed. The photo below is a view looking down the sidewalk on the north side of the bridge.

Lowry Avenue Bridge
Lowry Avenue Bridge
The photo above is one last look at the east portal of the Lowry Avenue Bridge. The previous 10 photos were taken in September, 2006, after the Lowry Avenue Bridge had been closed for 6 months.

The next seven photos were taken prior the bridge being closed. The photo below was taken from the location of a future riverside park. Trees obscure the eastern-most bridge truss.


Lowry Avenue Bridge
Lowry Avenue Bridge
The photo above is a view of the east bridge portal. Note the lone vehicle on the bridge. The photo below is a view of the bridge span over the navigation channel.

Lowry Avenue Bridge
Lowry Avenue Bridge
The photo above is a view of the Lowry Avenue Bridge from a bit further downstream. This view shows some of the other riverside structures near the bridge. The photo below shows the west end of the bridge after it was closed down in the spring of 2008.

Lowry Avenue Bridge
Lowry Avenue Bridge
The photo above is the west end bridge approach. The river crossing climbs to the top of a roof level earthen causeway that runs several blocks before reaching the truss spans. The photo below is a bridge over a pair of railroad tracks on the west side of the river.

Lowry Avenue Bridge
Lowry Avenue Bridge
These two photos are from Saturday, June 20, 2009, the last full day of life for the Lowry Bridge. The photo above is from the riverside park located just south of the bridge on the east side of the Mississippi River. The photo below is from near the east portal of the structure. Note that the bridge railings have been removed.

Lowry Avenue Bridge
Lowry Avenue Bridge
These two photos are more views from the last full day of life for the Lowry Bridge. In the photo above, we see that the bridge deck has been removed. The photo below is a view of the activity on the east end of the structure.

Lowry Avenue Bridge
Lowry Avenue Bridge
The photo above is the Lowry Avenue Bridge on Sunday, June 21, 2009, about an hour after it was dropped into the Mississippi River using explosive charges. The photo below is a close view of one of the mid-river spans.

Lowry Avenue Bridge
Lowry Avenue Bridge
The photo above is the Lowry Avenue river crossing on June 28, 2009, after the bridge steel has been removed from the river. The photo below is the navigation channel. The white markers have appeared since the bridge was removed. They mark the path through the ruins given that the signs and lights formerly mounted on the bridge structure are now gone.

Lowry Avenue Bridge

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