As part of the 4-lane project, a pair of identical 1,100 foot steel girder concrete deck highway bridges were built. These were very modern and very functional, but looked totally utilitarian with no visual enhancements. This was very typical of the bridges built in the late 1950s and through the 1960s during the period when the highway systems were rapidly expanding.
Fast forward to 2007, and these two bridge spans had become obsolete. To make matters worse, the river had carved out scour holes around the base of the support piers. Originally proposed for 2010, the bridge replacement project was moved up when bond money became available. As of late fall 2007, the northbound traffic lanes were using the new bridge span, while southbound traffic was still using the old bridge.
Note, the stats above are for the old bridges. The new bridges have not been entered into the NBI as of December, 2007.
This area of the Minnesota River Valley is known as the Valley of the Jolly Green Giant. The Green Giant was founded in Le Sueur in 1903. It introduced a variety of very large diameter peas in 1925, known as the Green Giant variety. The Green Giant mascot appeared in 1928, and the company took the name Green Giant Company in 1950. Green Giant became part of Pillsbury in 1979, and is now owned by General Mills since 2001. Most of the canning facilities once owned by Green Giant are now owned by Seneca since the mid-1990s. While Green Giant no longer has a plant or offices in Le Sueur, the enormous wooden Jolly Green Giant sign still welcomes travelers on US-169 to the valley.
The photo above is a profile view of the new northbound span, which uses prestressed concrete girders rather than steel girders as were used in the old bridge. The cut-off stubs of the old piers are visible, as well as the piers of the old southbound bridge in the background.