The MN-197 Bridge in Bemidji is the major Mississippi River crossing in
that area of the state. It sees far more traffic than any other river
crossing in the area, even more than the 4-lane US-2/US-71 Bemidji bypass.
The bridge itself is a fairly standard modern prestressed concrete girder
bridge, but it is dressed up to be a signature bridge. Functional features
include 4 wide lanes with barriers between opposing lanes, and a wide
bicycle and pedestrian path on each side that is also barrier separated
from vehicle traffic. Decorative features are highlighted by the towers.
They serve to make this look like an old style draw bridge. The rock
facade really sells that feature. The decorations on the towers are
designed to remind one of the ornate gas lamp poles that once stood on
the nearby Nymore bridge. The blue stained glass would be the lamp
flame, which is lit up at night by both accent and interior lighting.
More and more bridges are being cut off from the public by placement
of no parking signs or by active police patrols. That is not the case
with the MN-197 bridge. There are walking paths on and under the bridge,
steps on the sides and ends of the bridge, and a parking area along
side the bridge. The river see a lot of canoe traffic in this area,
and the bridge is designed to be just as inviting to the canoeist as
it is to the vehicle driver, pedestrian, or biker. MN-DOT has had its
ups and downs, but in this case, they really pulled off a wonderful
job. They deserve all the kudos that a project like this is worth.
Both MN-DOT and the National Bridge Inventory track this as two
separate parallel bridges.
The photo above is the main span as seen from the north side of the bridge
looking upstream. The Nymore bridge and the two railroad bridges that
cross the river just upstream are visible in the background. The photo
below is a view looking between the two parallel bridges. The photo at
the top of the page is a profile view of the bridge from river level at
the northeast corner of the bridge.
The photo above is a view of the bridge from the northwest corner as
seen from the parking lot of the shopping center located next to the
bridge. The photo below is a view of the bridge deck as seen from the
sidewalk near the northeast corner of the structure.
The photo above is looking southeast across the bridge deck from the
highway level at the northeast corner of the structure. The photo below
is a profile view of the bridge as seen from the nearby Nymore bridge.