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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Northern Pacific Bridge
Northern Pacific Railroad Mississippi River Crossing
Minneapolis, MN

Northern Pacific Bridge

• Structure ID: N/A.
• Location: River Mile 855.8.
• River Elevation: 801 Feet.
• Railroad: Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.
• Daily Traffic Count: 1 Train Per Day (Estimated).
• Bridge Type: Warren Truss With Plate Girder Spans.
• Length: 821 Feet Overall, 192 Foot Longest Span.
• Width: Two Tracks.
• Navigation Channel Width: 150 Feet.
• Height Above Water: 27 Feet.
• Date Built: Opened In 1884.
This bridge was first built by the Northern Pacific Railroad as part of its link from Minneapolis to the Northern Pacific transcontinental rail line that ran across northern Minnesota. The bridge provided direct access to the Northern Pacific yards on the east side of the Mississippi River. This 1884 era bridge featured 5 truss sections.

Due to locomotives becoming heavier over time, the Northern Pacific rebuilt this bridge in 1927. The rebuilt bridge consisted of 9 plate girder spans supported by 8 piers. In 1963, two plate girder spans and several piers were removed and replaced with a single large Warren style truss span. At the same time, the entire bridge was raised several feet. The higher bridge and wider main span were needed to accommodate river navigation traffic following the opening of the locks at Saint Anthony falls in 1963.

When first built, this bridge was part of the heavily traveled Northern Pacific mainline. The Northern Pacific Railroad merged with two other railroads creating the Burlington Northern system in 1971. As a result, this bridge became secondary as the BNSF favored the Great Northern located just downstream at Nicollet Island, a bridge that was also became part of the BNSF in the 1971 merger. A second result, due to the lower usage, is that twin parallel railroad tracks were reduced to a single track.

The City of Minneapolis master plan for developing the Mississippi River parkway system shows this rail line being abandoned, and the bridge being converted into a pedestrian and bicycle path. It is planned to become part of the Bottineau Trail, which is slated to eventually cross the entire state of Minnesota following abandoned railroad rights-of-way.

The photo above is a close view of the main bridge span. This view is from the West River Parkway looking northeast. This truss span was added to the bridge in 1963.

Northern Pacific Bridge
The photo above is a view of the main channel span as seen from Sheridan Park on the east bank of the Mississippi River. The photo below is a view of the east bridge portal looking down the length of the bridge deck towards the west.

Northern Pacific Bridge
Northern Pacific Bridge
The photo above is a view of the bridge looking north from the west shore of the Mississippi River. A small park is located near the river, and a water-ski team gives shows on summer evenings at this location. The photo below was taken from the east shore of the Mississippi River. The view is looking south. Part of the Broadway Avenue Bridge is visible under the truss section of the Northern Pacific Bridge. In addition, the water-ski jump that is in the foreground of the photo above is visible in under the truss span in the photo below.

Northern Pacific Bridge
Northern Pacific Bridge
These two photos were taken from the west end of the Northern Pacific Bridge. This area had been fenced off for many years, but recently became accessible after the completion of a block of riverfront condos and a new riverside park. The photo above shows the deck plate girder spans on the west end of the bridge. The photo below is looking across the river crossing towards the east from the west end of the bridge.

Northern Pacific Bridge

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