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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography

The I-35W Bridge At Night

A Look At The New I-35W Saint
Anthony Falls Bridge At Night


I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
The new I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge features an innovative lighting system. Based on LED technology, it provides more consistent light levels and uses 13% less energy than traditional high-pressure sodium lamps.

The bridge deck is illuminated by white LED panels mounted on 40-foot tall poles. The light color is closer to natural light, which is a more comfortable light color, especially for older drivers. The LED panels provide more diffused and even light than traditional street lights, providing consistent light levels on the bridge deck without bright and dark spots. This is the first segment of Interstate highway in the US to be illuminated with LED lighting.

The underside of the bridge is lit by a series of multi-color LED fixtures. These fixtures have red, green, and blue LEDs, allowing nearly any light color to be displayed. The computerized lighting controller can address each light fixture individually. It has been reported that MN-DOT is not quite sure what they plan to do with this lighting system over the long term. The bridge design called for the bridge to be bathed in a blue glow. Two different colors of blue have been tried. There was talk of lighting the bridge in white, with other colors reserved for special occasions. A local resident who lives near the the bridge reported seeing the bridge in green for a night while the lights were being tested, and the bridge was lit up in pink for a night in support of breast cancer awareness. On June 25, 2011, the bridge was lit in a multicolor pattern for the Twin Cities Pride Festival.

The photo above is a view of the east face of the I-35W bridge looking north across the Mississippi River. This is perhaps the best view of the bridge that is available. To get to this location, head towards the Holiday Inn Metrodome, then follow the street that runs behind the parking ramp for the hotel. There is on-street parking available. Then walk towards the river, being careful not to fall off of the rather steep bluff at the edge of the river.

Note—these materials are covered by copyright and may not be used without written permission.


I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This photo is the downstream east face of the bridge looking south across the Mississippi River. The green sign just above the far end of the bridge is the Holiday Inn Metrodome sign mentioned in the caption above. The vantage point is standing next to the north main pier of the 10th Avenue Bridge, a large concrete arch bridge located just downstream from the I-35W bridge. To get to this location, follow SE 2nd Street until you are between these two bridges, then follow the footpath to the edge of the river bluff. This view works best in late fall or early spring when the trees do not have leaves.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
The photos above is a view of the upstream face of the bridge as seen from Mill Ruins Park on the south bank of the river between the upper and lower falls. The blue color of the bridge is nothing short of stunning. It looks like something out of a science fiction movie. Adding to this scene are the incredible reflections on the surface of the water.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
The photo above is a view looking south towards the bridge deck from the top of the entrance ramp at University Avenue. The light blue lines are a monument at the north end of the bridge. The deep blue light is from the underside of the bridge structure. The green light in the background is the Holiday Inn mentioned above. Note the two different styles of street lights. The tall orange lights in the foreground are high pressure sodium lights. The shorter white street lights on the bridge are the newer LED lights.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
The photo above and the ten that follow are night views from July, 2011, just days before the fourth anniversay of the bridge collapse. This view is looking east towards the upstream face of the Saint Anthony Falls Bridge from the deck of the Stone Arch Bridge. Since we are about 50 feet above the water, the bridge reflection falls closer to the bridge, landing out of sight on the downstream side of the Lower Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This view is looking directly downstream towards the bridge from the parking area at Mill Ruins Park. Since we are closer to the water level, we see a much larger reflection. The reflection isn't as well defined as the 2009 photo above due to the water surface being rough on account of the high river flow volumes. However, the vertical reflections are much more crisp because the 2009 photo has a bit of blur, whereas this is a much sharper image.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This view is looking northeast towards the bridge from the road leading into the upstream side of the Lower Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam. Note that main bridge pier on the left side of the photo is less obscured by the dam structure, and we cannot see inot the boat lock as we can in the photo above.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This view is looking north across the Mississippi River along the upstream west face of the Saint Anthony Falls Bridge. The vantage point is the bicycle trail running along the edge of the West River Parkway. Note that we don't see the lights on the bridge deck in this view. The deck lights run along the center of the bridge, so they are hidden from view from this angle.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This is another view from the trail running along the West River Parkway. This view is looking north across the river from just under the upstream edge of the bridge. The observation deck under the bridge piers is open 24 hours a day and is well lit at night. The structure in the water just upstream of the bridge is a wall at the downstream exit of the boat lock at the Lower Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This view is looking north across the Mississippi River from just downstream of the Saint Anthony Falls Bridge. The observation deck is hidden by the entrance road to the lock & dam. The street lights at the far right side of the photo are on the nearby 10th Avenue Bridge, which is not lit up at night.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This is another view looking north across the Mississippi River from just downstream of the Saint Anthony Falls Bridge. The vantage point is the riverfront trail as it passes under the nearby 10th Avenue Bridge. This location gives us a good view of the main bridge span, but unfortunately, there is a tree blocking the view of the south main bridge piers.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This photo is a closer view of the main bridge piers on the north side of the Mississippi River. While it is somewhat hard to see in this photo, there is a large pile of sand and gravel being stored under the bridge just behind the main bridge piers. This is presumably part of storm drain construction project in the river flats area.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This photo is the bridge span over the West River Parkway. Two smaller arch spans of the 10th Avenue Bridge are visible in the background just behind the I-35W Bridge.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This photo is looking upwards and to the south between the two bridge spans towards the monument at the south end of the bridge. This monument is made out of a photocatalytic concrete that removes carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, and sulfur dioxide from the air. It is illumnated with a slightly different color blue than the rest of the bridge.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
The photo above is the walkway leading from West River Parkway down to the south observation deck. Specifically, it is the upper three segments of the walkway from the path running along the north side of the parkway down to the entrance road to the Lower Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam. There is a nice view of downtown Minneapolis in the background between the trees where the street goes up the hill and past the Centerpoint Energy facility.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This photo is a view of the lower section of the walkway leading from the Lock & Dam entrance road down to the south observation deck, as well as the the observation deck itself. The bridge piers are lit up in purple as part of the annual Twin Cities Pride Festival.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This view is looking directly across the Mississippi River from the observation deck under the bridge piers. The observation deck on the north side of the river is not formally open to the public, however, access to the river flats area is allowed. The reflection in the water is from the bridge piers given that the underside of the bridge is not illuminated. Note that the monument on the north side of the river is just barely visible between the two bridge spans.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This view is looking up towards the saddle at the top of a main bridge pier. Since the bridge sits on top of the center of the pier, the saddle is a decorative feature. There are access doors on the saddles to allow access to the top of the bridge piers for inspections and maintenance. Note the LED lighting strips that run along the edge of the bridge deck.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
The photo above shows the LED lighting panels that run along the edge of the bridge deck. This photo is looking stright up, so the blue area that is lit up actually slopes back towards the ground. That is difficult to visualize without having any reference points in the background.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This photo shows three LED light panels at the base of a main bridge pier. While it is a little hard to see, only every third LED bulb is turned on. These are multicolor panels, so only the blue bulbs are in use, the red and green bulbs are turned off.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This photo is looking northwest across the deck of the nearby 10th Avenue Bridge towards the Saint Anthony Falls Bridge. This photo didn't turn out as well as I was expecting. When viewing this in person, your brain tends to fill in the parts of the scene that you cannot see, and your eyes change focal length to pull the far end of the bridge in closer. A camera, however, only shows what was really there. The red streak on the guardrail is an automobile taillight. It is too bad that there isn't a walkway on the upriver side of the 10th Avenue Bridge.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This view is also looking across the deck of the 10th Avenue Bridge, but in this case, we are looking southwest towards downtown Minneapolis. The cluster of tall buildings in the center includes the Capella Tower, IDS Tower, and Wells Fargo Place. The two green horizontal lights are on the 5th Street Towers, while the two vertical lights are the Guthrie Theater.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This is the monument at the north end of the Saint Anthony Falls Bridge. The northbound lanes are on the near side of the bridge, with the exit ramp leading up to 4th Avenue. The vantage point is the vacant lot between the I-35W Bridge and the 10th Avenue Bridge that was once the site of a Hardee's restaurant.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
The photo above is a view looking south from the 4th Avenue overpass just north of the Saint Anthony Falls Bridge. The southbound traffic lanes are on the right side of the bridge. The photo above uses a faster lens with a shorter exposure time to show the vehicles on the bridge.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This photo is the same view as the photo directly above, but uses a slower lens with a high F-stop settings and a long exposure time. We no longer see the vehciles, but we do see the trails left by their taillights.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This is a view of the I-35W bridge site looking upstream to the west from the deck of Northern Pacific Bridge #9, a spectacular old railroad bridge that has been converted into a bicycle path bridge. Not only do we have a great view of downtown Minneapolis, but we can see parts of 5 different Mississippi River bridges as well as two lock and structures. Heading upstream, we see (1) the railing from Bridge #9 in the lower left, (2) the 10th Avenue Bridge (the black arch bridge in front of the I-35W bridge, (3) the I-35W bridge lit up in blue, (4) the Stone Arch bridge (under the right main arch of the 10th Avenue bridge, and (5) the lights at the top of the towers on the Hennepin Avenue Bridge (the two lights in the sky above the I-35W pier on the right side of the photo). We also see the lock of the Lower Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam under the left main bridge arch of the 10th Avenue Bridge, and lights from the lock at the Upper Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam (very hard to see in this small sized photo).

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This is another view from the deck of Northern Pacific Bridge #9 looking upstream towards the I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge. In this photo, we are looking at the south approach span of the bridge, with the south main bridge piers near the right side of the image. Two landmarks that are visible are the Guthrie Theater (the vertical line of light) and the Gold Medal Flower sign (in the center of the photo).

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This is another view from the deck of Northern Pacific Bridge #9 looking upstream towards the I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge. This photo is centered on the south main bridge piers. It gives a great night view of the boat lock at the Lower Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This is another view from the deck of Northern Pacific Bridge #9 looking upstream towards the I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge. This is a closer view of the south main bridge piers as seen from a little further north on the deck of the Northern Pacific Bridge #9. This angle gives us the best view of the downtown skyline, centering it right above the bridge piers. The photo is a bit of a compromise. In order to really bring up the city lights, it would overexpose the bridge lights making them white rather than blue. As a result, many photographers would use HDR (high dynamic range) processing to merge parts photos with different exposures into a single image.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This is another view from the deck of Northern Pacific Bridge #9 looking upstream towards the I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge. This photo is centered on the north main bridge piers. There is an observation deck built at the base of these piers, but the deck is fenced off and not open to the public yet as of the spring of 2012.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This photo is the downstream side of the secondary span at the north end of the I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge. This span crosses an old railroad yard. There is still a single track the runs under the bridge, but it is rarely used and dead ends just west of the structure. A paved access road for the University of Minnesota also passes under this span. That road is marked for U of M vehicles only, but it is heavily used by bicycle traffic and students on foot.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This photo is looking south across the Mississippi River under the I-35W bridge. The vantage point is the U of M access road mentioned in the previous caption above, standing directly under the gap between the two bridge spans. This photo uses a fill-in flash to light up the dark area in the foreground, allowing us to see the smaller secondary piers at the north end of the bridge. We also see the top of the wall running along the edge of the river bluff. This wall is part of the abutment of the long since dismantled Minneapolis Western Railroad Bridge over the Mississippi River. The abutment was situated facing west since the approach tracks were parallel to the river. The bridge then made a 45 degree curve and crossed the river on a diagonal path.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This is another view of the secondary span at the north end of the I-35W bridge. The north bridge abutment is on the right side of the photo. The red and orange streaks of light is a bus crossing the bridge. The white block above the streaks is the top of the bridge monument located above the bridge deck between the two bridge spans. We can see the remaining railroad track in this former railroad yard, as well as the U of M service road.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This photo is the bridge that crosses SE 2nd Street, located just north of the north abutment of the I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge. This bridge was built at the same time as the new I-35W bridge. Since it is wider than it is long, it actually qualifies as being a tunnel. The walls of the tunnel feature tiles made of recycled glass. These tiles were made by groups of students from Twin Cities area schools. Plaques on the wall identify the schools that were involved in this project.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
This is a view looking north towards the north bridge abutment while standing under the structure directly between the two bridge spans. The three curved blue lines at the center is the north bridge monument. It is made out of a type of photocatalytic concrete that works with ultraviolet sunlight to break down carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, and sulfer dioxide, the major contributors to smog. This is the first known use of this type of concrete in the United States.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
The photo above is an attempt to recreate the photo at the very top of this page. I was not able to get the guard rail to light up in this attempt as it is on the 2009 photo. The light on the guard rail comes from cars. There wasn't as much traffic during this visit, and attempts to leave the expsoure open long enough for a car to travel far enough to light much of the guard rail left the bridge over-exposed.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN
The photo above is another attempt with a slower lens and a longer exposure. About one-third of the railing is lit up. As it turns out, the 2009 photo was from November when it gets dark early, and it was taken at the tail end of rush hour when there was a lot of traffic. These photos are form the middle of summer, so they were taken about midnight where there was very little traffic. The photo below is a final attempt using ISO 100 and a very long exposure. It is a much sharper photo than the two attempts above, and the street lights are not chopped off like the photo above.

I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Mississippi River, Minneapolis, MN

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