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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Old US-12 Bridge
Former US-12 Minnesota River Highway Crossing
Ortonville, MN

Old US-12 Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI: 3398.
• Location: River Mile 328.0.
• River Elevation: 961 Feet.
• Highway: Old US-12.
• Daily Traffic Count: 0 (Closed To Traffic).
• Bridge Type: Concrete Rainbow Arch.
• Length: 79 Feet.
• Width: 22 Feet.
• Navigation Channel Width: Non-Navigable.
• Height Above Water: ??? Feet.
• Date Built: 1920.
This old bridge carried the mainline traffic for US-12 between the years of 1920 and 1953. It served as a county road for several decades after 1953. Today, she stands closed to vehicle traffic and overgrown with trees and brush.

The old US-12 bridge is a Rainbow Arch bridge. This is a relatively unique bridge style, with the Robert Street Bridge in Saint Paul being a more famous example. In a rainbow arch, the arch begins below the bridge deck, then rises above the bridge deck. The center of the arch supports the center of the bridge by lifting the bridge deck with tension rods, while the ends of the arch push up the bridge deck through risers that are in compression. In a more typical arch bridge, the arch is either totally above the deck, or totally below the deck.

The old US-12 bridge is about to get a new lease on life as this is written in the spring of 2008. The Minnesota Headwaters Recreational Trail is being developed during the summer of 2008. It will run between the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge Auto Tour Route, run north along the Minnesota River, crossing the river twice, and then crossing the river a third time on this bridge. The trail will be 10 foot wide and be paved with asphalt such that it is handicap accessible. As a result, this magnificent old bridge should enjoy a long life catering to the needs of bicyclists, hikers, walkers, rollerbladers, wheelchairs, and any other mode of human powered transportation that can be dreamed up.

Update—as of November, 2009, the new regional trail conversion project is nearly done. The bridge has been cleaned up and repaved. A new guard rail fence is being installed. The remainder of the trail is open, so this will be the last link of the 4-1/2 mile journey between Ortonville and the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge.

The photo above shows the bridge hiding behind a set of new looking traffic barricades and overgrown with trees and brush.


Old US-12 Bridge
These two photos are views of the bridge deck. The photo above is looking north down the length of the bridge deck. The photo below is looking northeast towards the downriver arch. While the concrete shows some surface deterioration, the bridge structure remains sound.

Old US-12 Bridge
Old US-12 Bridge
These two photos are views from the bridge deck looking through the gap between the arch and the bridge railing. The photo above is looking downriver to the east. The photo below is looking upriver to the west. The bridge visible in the distance carries US-12 traffic.

Old US-12 Bridge
Old US-12 Bridge
The photo above is the upriver face of the arch bridge as seen from the north side of the Minnesota River. The photo below is a similar view from the south bank of the river from November, 2009, at the tail end of the bridge conversion project. The weeds have been cleared, the trail has been paved, and a fence is being put up on the bridge deck. The arch is much easier to see with the brush cut back.

Old US-12 Bridge
Old US-12 Bridge
These two photos are additional views from the south end of the bridge. The photo above is from the southeast corner of the bridge, while the photo below is from the southwest corner of the structure.

Old US-12 Bridge
Old US-12 Bridge
These two photos are looking northeast along the upstream face of the bridge. The photo above is a view from late 2009 during the bridge conversion project after the brush has been cut back. The photo above is the same view from the summer of 2010. Note how quickly the brush has filled out along the bridge.

Old US-12 Bridge
Old US-12 Bridge
The following three photos are views from early summer of 2010 after the refurbishment project has been completed. The downstream trail bridges have also been completed allowing for hikers and bicycles to travel the 4 miles between Ortonville and the Big Stone Wildlife Refuge. The photo above is looking southwest, while the photo below is looking northeast.

Old US-12 Bridge

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