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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge In Minneapolis
Minneapolis, MN

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI 27003
• Bridge Carries: Pedestrian/Bicycle Path
• Bridge Crosses: Interstate I-94, Hennepin Avenue, Lyndale Avenue
• Bridge Type: Steel Through Truss w/Arch And Suspension Supports
• Length: 387 Feet, 159 Foot Longest Span (See Notes Below)
• Width: 12 Feet (Estimated)
• Height To Low Structure: 29 Feet (Estimated)
• Date Built: 1988
The Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge spans 17 lanes of busy street and interstate highway to connect the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden with Loring Park just west of downtown Minneapolis. Unlike the industrial style pedestrian bridges built in the 1960s and 1970s, the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge is a somewhat whimsical structure that was designed to be a piece of artwork as well as being a functional bridge. The result is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the Twin Cities, one that is as fun as it is functional.

When the freeway system was built in the Twin Cities, it sliced the busy wedge area near Hennepin and Lyndale avenue in two. It had long been desired to tie these two areas of the city back together. An opportunity arose when the city armory was tore down in the early 1980s, and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden was later expanded. The thought of making this bridge into a functional sculpture was an obvious choice given that the west end of the structure would land in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

Minneapolis based artist Siah Armajani was commissioned to design this structure. His philosophy is that all public buildings and bridges are ornaments, so he was an excellent choice fore the project. The design features two bridge styles that play a prominent role in Minneapolis history. This includes the suspension bridge, such as the first bridge to span the Mississippi, and the arch bridge, of which there are four magnificent examples over the Mississippi River.

The bridge is named in honor of Irene Hixon Whitney. She was a lifelong patron of the arts who had passed away in 1986 from lung cancer. She was married to Wheelock Whitney Jr., who is an heir to the Northern States Power fortune and a very successful businessman in his own right. Not only was the Whitney family interested in art, but they also were responsible for bringing the Twins, Vikings, and Northstars to the Twin Cities.

The National Bridge Inventory lists this bridge as 387 feet long. The guide signs list 375 feet. My estimates from pacing the deck of the bridge and from aerial photographs suggest that the bridge deck is 375 feet long. The stairways extend beyond the end of the bridge deck on each end of the bridge. If you include the stairways, the bridge is about 402 feet long. I have no idea where the NBI came up with 387 feet.

Similarly, the NBI lists the longest span as being 159 feet. My estimates of the three spans are 149 feet (suspension span on the west end of the bridge), 53 feet (span over southbound I-94), and 173 feet (arch span on the east end of the bridge). Again, I have no idea where the 149 foot number may have come from. I estimate the bridge deck being 12 feet wide, and the inside of the truss structure being about 12 feet tall. Using that estimate, that suggests that the low steel on the deck is about 29 feet above the lanes of I-94, and the central bridge tower is about 58 feet tall (including its concrete support base).

The photo above is looking northbound along Hennepin and Lyndale Avenue. Interstate I-94 emerges from the Lowry Tunnel between the northbound and southbound lanes of Hennepin and Lyndale Avenue. The bridge crosses over 3 lanes of Hennepin Avenue (northbound), 2 lanes of Lyndale Avenue (northbound), 8 lanes of I-94 (4 lanes northbound, 4 lanes southbound), and 4 lanes of Hennepin Avenue and Lyndale Avenue (southbound).


Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
These two photos are views looking west along the south face of the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge as seen from the bicycle ramp leading to the east end of the structure. The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is on the far end of the bridge.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
The photo above is looking northwest towards the south face of the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge. Interstate highway I-94 runs on the middle 8 lanes, while Hennepin Avenue and Lyndale Avenue runs on the outer 9 lanes. The photo below is a close view of the center bridge pier.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
These two photos are additional views from the east side of Hennepin Avenue looking towards the south face of the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge. The photo above features the blue arch span while the photo below features the yellow suspension span.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
These two photos are views of the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge from the west side of the southbound lanes of Hennepin Avenue and Lyndale Avenue. The photo above features the blue arch span while the photo below features the yellow suspension span.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
The photo above is a view looking northeast towards the blue arch bridge span. This view features Loring Park and the Minneapolis city skyline in the background. The photo below is a close view of the center bridge piers. The shorter pier supports the west end of the arch structure while the taller pier supports the east end of the suspension span.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
These two photos are views looking east along the south face of the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge as seen from the bicycle ramp leading to the west end of the structure. Loring Park is in the background.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
The photo above is the west end of the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge. Pedestrians can walk straight ahead and up the stairway, while bicycles can use a ramp leading from the south. The photo below is a close view of the steps leading to the bridge deck.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
The photo above is looking west beyond the end of the bridge deck towards the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The photo below is looking east down the length of the bridge deck. The bridge deck is a long through truss structure with a wooden deck. Note that the deck looks to be in very good condition for a 22 year old structure. MN-DOT closed the bridge for 20 days in May and June of 2010 to replace the deck and touch up the paint on the structure.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
The photo above is looking northeast from inside the truss span at the location where the suspension span transitions into the arch span. The photo below is a similar view looking towards the taller pier that supports the east end of the suspension span.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
The photo above is looking east beyond the east end of the bridge deck and into Loring Park. The photo below is looking down the stairway at the east end of the bridge.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
The photo above is looking west down the length of the bridge deck from the east end of the structure. The photo below is a close view of the lettering that runs along the inside of the north side of the bridge. The words are from an untitled poem by John Ashbery.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
The photo above is the start of the bicycle ramp leading to the west end of the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge. The photo below is the south end of this walkway structure. The walkway exits the street heading west, then makes a sharp corner around a curved section.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
The photo above is the walkway in the curved section near the bottom of the ramp. The photo above is the walkway as it climbs towards the bridge deck level.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
The photo above is a view of the walkway structure as seen from a trail running through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The photo below is a close view of the west end of the bridge where the walkway attaches to the bridge deck. The pier on the west end of the bridge supports the suspension span on the west end of the structure.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
The photo above is a view of the curved section of walkway as seen from the path running through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The photo below reveals the reason for the curved walkway. It is the display space for the sculpture Prometheus Strangling the Vulture II by Jacques Lipchitz. This work is a 1953 bronze casting based on a 1944 era piece.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
The photo above is looking south from the west end of the bridge deck towards the walkway that leads down to Hennepin Avenue and Lyndale Avenue. The photo below is a view of the structure under the bridge deck.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
The photo above is looking west along the south face of the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge from ground level from a walking path in Loring Park. The photo below is a view of the east end of the bridge structure and the stairway that descends into Loring Park.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
The photo above is a view looking north at the structure under the walkway on the east end of the bridge. This photo is slightly over exposed to allow the dark area under the bridge deck to show up a little better. The photo below is a view of a curved section of walkway as seen from Loring Park. The curved section matches a similar curved section that is used as gallery space across the highway in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. On this side of the highway, the curved section sports a mural. Designed and painted by Joseph Barillaro in 1999, this monotone work looks much like graffiti, but is far more organized and coherent.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
The photo above is a view looking south down the walkway leading to the east end of the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge. The photo below is a close view of the structure that supports one of the flat and level sections of the walkway.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
The photo above is looking north up the walkway ramp leading to the east end of the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge. This view would include a very nice view of the Basilica of Saint Mary if it was not for the cluster of highway signs partially blocking the sightlines. The photo below is a sign posted near the entrance to the walkway.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
These two photos are two of the more famous sculptures in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The piece above is Spoonbridge and Cherry, a 1988 work by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen. Oldenburg is widely known for his oversized depictions of everyday objects. The piece below is Hare on Bell on Portland Stone Piers, a 1983 piece by Barry Flanagan. Flanagan was known for using non-traditional materials in his works, which makes this use of bronze, a very traditional sculpture material, all the more interesting.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
The photo above is a view of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden as seen from the deck of the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge. The large metal piece is called Arikidea by Mark di Suvero. Despite being made out of heavy steel, the beams are balanced in such a way that even the slightest breeze will make them move. The photo below is a view of the blue arch span on the east end of the bridge as seen from a vehicle traveling northbound on Lyndale Avenue. The Basilica of Saint Mary is visible in the background.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge
These two photos are views of the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge as seen from a vehicle traveling on Interstate I-94. The photo above is heading southbound towards the north portal of the Lowry Tunnel. The southbound traffic lanes pass between the two bridge piers in the middle of the span. The photo below is a view heading northbound under the arch span just after emerging from the Lowry Tunnel.

Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge

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Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2016, all rights reserved.
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