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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
North Star Bridge
US-169 Minnesota River Highway Crossing
Mankato, MN

US-169 North Star Bridge (Mankato)

• Structure ID: NBI: 9098.
• Location: River Mile 114.9.
• River Elevation: 753 Feet.
• Highway: US-169, MN-60.
• Daily Traffic Count: 30,000 (2004).
• Bridge Type: Pre-stressed Concrete Girder w/Concrete Deck.
• Length: 1,594 Feet.
• Width: 101 Feet, 6 Lanes.
• Navigation Channel Width: Non-Navigable.
• Height Above Water: ??? Feet.
• Date Built: Built 1960, Reconstructed 1992.
US-169 originally crossed the Minnesota River at Saint Peter, and ran along the east side of the river into Mankato. That route is currently used by highway MN-22. The highway was moved off of Front Street in downtown Mankato and routed along the west side of the river though North Mankato. The road between Saint Peter and Mankato was developed as 4-lane expressway. Moving the highway out of downtown required building a new Minnesota River bridge. This bridge also crossed a large rail yard on the east side of the river. The bridge was built in 1960, and is named the North Star Bridge.

Mankato has historically been hit by a series of large floods. Federal funding for floodwalls was repeatedly turned down by the government, until it was finally approved in the late 1950s. That project was never started, and in 1965, the food of the century hit. That flood caused a huge amount of damage in downtown Mankato when the make-shift dikes gave away. As a result of the flood, the flood protection project was finally put into high gear. That project built levees on both sides of the river, and capped those levees with floodwalls. The US-14 bridge was lower than the floodwalls, so it had to be removed. It was replaced with the new Veteran's Memorial Bridge. The North Star Bridge was high enough, but the levees and floodwall just barely cleared under the bridge structure. Since that time, the flood protection system has worked very well, protecting the city from several 50 and 100 year floods in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

By the late 1980s, the pavement on the US-169 bypass had reached the end of its life, and the bridge was in need of repairs. As a result, MN-DOT funded a project to rebuild the US-169 bypass, put in new concrete pavement, widen the shoulders, and put in modern guardrails. This allowed MN-DOT to raise the speed limit on the highway from the traditional 50 MPH to the more normal 55 MPH.

The North Star Bridge is the third of three bridges to carry US-169 across the Minnesota River when heading upstream from the Twin Cities. The other two crossings are the Bloomington Ferry Bridge in the southwest metro area, and the US-169 bridge at Le Sueur.

The photo above is looking southwest towards the main Minnesota River channel spans from the north side of the river. The vantage point is the bicycle trail that runs along the north side of the river between US-169, the Minnesota River, and the Lookout Drive highway interchange. Note that the steel girders on the river spans is much larger than the steel girders on the railroad crossing spans that start at the far left side of the photo. Also note that while the levee on the south side of the river comes very close to the bottom of the bridge girders, the bridge does not end at the levee.


US-169 North Star Bridge (Mankato)
The photo above is a telephone view looking east from the intersection of Judson Bottom Road and Lookout Driver on the north side of the river channel. The photo below is looking southwest towards the railroad crossing spans from the north side of the river. The vantage point is the bicycle trail that runs along the north side of the river between US-169, the Minnesota River, and the Lookout Drive highway interchange.

US-169 North Star Bridge (Mankato)
US-169 North Star Bridge (Mankato)
The photo above is a view looking southwest towards the railroad yard bridge spans on the south end of the North Star Bridge. This area was once a large sand and gravel operation and a railroad maintenance yard. It has since been cleared and is being redeveloped. Note that the main line of the Union Pacific railroad passes over a trestle just before passing under the North Star Bridge. Also note that the bridge piers run at an angle on each side of the railroad tracks, while the rest of the bridge piers are perpendicular to the bridge deck.

The photo below is a view traveling southbound on US-169 traveling over the main Minnesota River channel spans of the North Star Bridge.


US-169 North Star Bridge (Mankato)
US-169 North Star Bridge (Mankato)
These two photos are views crossing the North Star Bridge heading northbound on US-169. The photo above is crossing the railroad bridge spans on the south end of the bridge. The signs indicate that the Lookout Drive exits are coming up soon, and that a sharp turn to the right is at the north end of the bridge. The photo below is crossing the main Minnesota River channel spans. The signs ahead point to where the Lookout Drive exit departs from US-169 and that the outside lane comes to an end.

US-169 North Star Bridge (Mankato)
US-169 North Star Bridge (Mankato)
These two photos are telephone views looking southeast from the riverfront bicycle trail on the east riverbank from a location just south of the Veterans Memorial Bridge. The North Star Bridge is about two-thirds of a mile away from this vantage point. The photo above is an overview showing the river spans on the right side of the photo and the railroad crossing spans on the left side of the photo. The photo below is a closer view of the river spans.

US-169 North Star Bridge (Mankato)

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