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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
US-71 Bridge (Main Channel)
Minnesota River Highway Crossing
Morton, MN

US-71 Bridge (Main Channel)

• Structure ID: NBI: 64010.
• Location: River Mile 202.7.
• River Elevation: 815 Feet.
• Highway: US-71, MN-19.
• Daily Traffic Count: 6,500 (2004).
• Bridge Type: Prestressed Concrete Girder, Concrete Deck.
• Length: 371 Feet.
• Width: 48 Feet, 2 Lanes.
• Navigation Channel Width: Non-Navigable.
• Height Above Water: ???.
• Date Built: 1997.
By the mid-1990s, the Jackpot Junction Casino had become a major enterprise, attracting gaming patrons from all over southern Minnesota as well as the Twin Cities. The roads near Morton were ill-suited to handle this increase in traffic. MN-DOT decided to fix the situation by rebuilding and widening US-71 past Morton, across the Minnesota River, and towards Redwood Falls. Completed in 1997, this bypass resulted in two new Minnesota River bridges, and the removal of one of the old river bridges.

There are two bridges that make up this Minnesota River crossing. This bridge crosses the main channel of the river, while a bridge about one-half mile south of this location crosses a backchannel known as Sulphur Lake. While both bridges serve the same purpose, to carry two lanes of high-speed traffic across a mid-sized river, the two bridges are in fact very different. First, this bridge is a more typical MN-DOT design using prestressed concrete girders, whereas the backchannel bridge uses steel girders. Next, this bridge is built as a very graceful curve, while the backchannel bridge is straight. Finally, this bridge features a sidewalk on the west side, while the backchannel bridge does not have a sidewalk. Hikers and bikers would use the old bridge to cross the backchannel, but there is no old bridge remaining to cross the main channel. As a result, the regional trail uses the sidewalk on the main channel bridge. Notice that this bridge uses the modern style of protecting pedestrians on the sidewalk by placing the highway guardrail between the traffic lane and the sidewalk.

The photo above is heading northbound on the highway US-71 as we approach the south end of the US-71 bridge. MN-19 and US-71 diverge just north of the Minnesota River crossing. The photo below is looking north across the main channel of the Minnesota River along the upstream west face of the US-71 bridge.


US-71 Bridge (Main Channel)
US-71 Bridge (Main Channel)
The photo above is looking northeast across the US-71 Bridge from the sidewalk near the southwest corner of the structure. The photo below is a river gauge maintained by the US Geological Service located on the downstream side of the bridge near its south end.

US-71 Bridge (Main Channel)

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