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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Graffiti Bridge
Former M&StL Railroad Crossing
Eden Prairie, MN

Graffiti Bridge

• Structure ID: N/A
• Railroad: Chicago & North Western
• Highway: Valley View Road
• Daily Traffic Count: 11,000 Vehicles (1990), 1 Train (1990)
• Bridge Type: Reinforced Concrete Slab
• Length: 19 Feet (Estimated)
• Width: 1 Track
• Height Above Highway: 18 Feet (Estimated)
• Date Built: 1925 (Estimated)
• Date Removed: May 19, 1991
Graffiti Bridge was a popular landmark in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, until it was removed in 1991. The bridge is fondly remembered as a local legend.

The Minneapolis & Saint Louis Railway built a line between Hopkins, MN, just west of downtown Minneapolis, south towards Saint Louis. The track through Eden Prairie was laid in November of 1871. The railroad never made it to Saint Louis, but it did pass through Carver, Mankato, and Mason City, Iowa. The M&StL was not a strong railroad. It spent many years in bankruptcy and was later acquired by the Chicago & North Western in 1960. The traffic on the line dwindled in the 1970s and 1980s. By 1990, only one train per day used the route. That train was operated by the Soo Line to haul grain to a malting plant.

While the railroad was in decline, Eden Prairie's star was rising. Once referred to as ‘Endless Prairie’, the population of the village hardly grew from 750 in 1880 to 2,000 in 1960. However, as the metro area expanded outward, Eden Prairie grew to be one of the larger cities in the state with a current population of over 60,000 people. The city has a mix of rural roots and high tech industry that makes it feel simultaneously like both a small town and a large city. Money Magazine agrees, naming it the best place to live in America in 2010.

The bridge started to be known as Graffiti Bridge in the late 1960s when protesters expressed their anti-war views by painting peace signs on the bridge. Over time, more and more graffiti was painted on the structure. The bridge had a reputation as a place where locals could express their views, or just put up some impromptu artwork. That artwork would be short-lived, however, as the site grew in popularity, the bridge abutments would often be painted over in as little as a week. From time to time, the city would repaint the entire bridge white to wipe the slate clean.

The issue with Graffiti Bridge is that it was narrow, too narrow for two lanes of traffic. As Eden Prairie grew, Valley View Road became a major through street. Stop lights were installed to regulate traffic, but that caused long backups as traffic levels grew to 11,000 vehicles per day in 1990. The city had already upgraded Valley View to four lanes east of the bridge, and wanted to continue the lanes to the west. An agreement was worked out with the C&NW to abandon the railroad line, and the bridge came down in May of 1991.

The photos above and below are looking east towards the west side of Graffiti Bridge on a late spring afternoon in May, 1991, just before the bridge was taken down. These photos were scanned from 4 x 6 color prints.


Graffiti Bridge
Graffiti Bridge
The photo above is looking west towards Graffiti Bridge from the north side of the street. This side of the bridge is in shadow due to the low sun angle late in the afternoon.

Graffiti Bridge was immortalized in the 1990 movie ‘Graffiti Bridge’, written, directed, and starring musician Prince Rogers Nelson. This movie was a follow-up to the Academy Award winning ‘Purple Rain’. The movie was designed to be a 1950s era musical. It was originally slated to feature Kim Basinger, but the relationship between Basinger and Prince ended before the movie was ready to shoot. The end result was widely panned as being little more than a series of music videos connected by filler material.

The photo below is a 1947 image clipped from the State of Minnesota DNR aerial photo site. The rail line runs north and south at this location, with Valley View Road running east and west across the photo. It is interesting to note that the rail line once ran on a different path that was southwest to northeast, crossing Valley View Road just west of Graffiti Bridge. That line is overgrown with trees, so it was probably abandoned 20 to 30 years at the time this photo was taken. I don't know the exact year that Graffiti Bridge was built, but I have read that the M&StL made a large investment in this line in 1925, so it is possible that Graffiti Bridge was built that year.


Graffiti Bridge
Graffiti Bridge
The old M&StL railroad right-of-way is currently used as the Southwest LRT Trail, a popular bicycle path. It is being held in reserve for a future light rail project. A longer pedestrian bridge now carries the trail over Valley View Road. These two photos are looking west towards the east face of the trail bridge. The photo above is taken from the south side of the road, while the photo below is a view while traveling westbound.

Graffiti Bridge

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