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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Thomson Road Bridge
CSAH-1 Saint Louis River Highway Crossing
Thomson, MN

Thomson Road Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI: 09504
• Location: River Mile 28.0 (Approximate)
• River Elevation: 1,051 Feet
• Highways: CSAH-1, Thomson Road
• Daily Traffic Count: 2,150 (2002)
• Bridge Type: Prestressed Concrete Girder, Concrete Deck
• Bridge Length: 122 Feet, 122 Foot Longest Span
• Bridge Width: 36 Feet, 2 Lanes
• Navigation Channel Width: Non-Navigable
• Height Above Water: 5 Feet
• Date Built: 1976
Thomson Road is one of three roads, along with MN-45 and MN-210, that serve the Thomson and Carlton area and have freeway exits from I-35. Thomson Road approaches the area from the east, while MN-45 approaches from the north and MN-210 approaches from the east. All three roads converge just south of the Thomson Reservoir, the northernmost component of the huge Thomson Dam water project.

In the case of the Thomson Road Bridge, it does not cross the main channel of the Saint Louis River. Rather, it crosses the Forbay Canal. This canal carries water from the Thomson Reservoir two miles to the east, where it then flows through pipes for another mile. The water eventually runs through giant power generating turbines before returning back to the Saint Louis River at River Mile 24.

The bridge is a very typical prestressed concrete girder bridge. It is short enough that mid-span piers are not required. As a result, the girders are supported on each end by the bridge abutments. The bridge features a reinforced concrete deck, and the modern style slanted solid guardrails. One feature of note is that the bridge has metal guardrails attached to the north end. On the south end, the bridge connects to curb and gutter. The east side of the bridge has a metal guardrail, while the west side does not. Rather it has a sidewalk with a handicap ramp leading down to the roadway. There is no guardrail to prevent someone from walking past the sidewalk and into the canal other than a small blue and white marker sign.

The photo above is an autumn view looking north across the bridge deck from the southwest corner of the structure. Note that the sidewalk ends at the bridge, but doesn't have a guardrail like the other three corners of the bridge. The photo below is a summer view from the same vantage point.

Thomson Road Bridge
Thomson Road Bridge
The photo above is a view looking north down the length of the bridge deck as seen from the southeast corner of the structure. The photo below is the bridge plate.

Thomson Road Bridge
Thomson Road Bridge
The photo above is looking north across the Forbay Canal along the upstream east face of the Thomson Road Bridge. The photo below is a similar view looking north across the canal along the downstream east face of the bridge.

Thomson Road Bridge
Thomson Road Bridge
The photo above is looking upstream to the northwest along the canal channel towards the Thomson Road Bridge. The vantage point is a concrete retaining wall along the edge of the canal near the former railroad bridge that now carries the Willard Munger Trail across the canal. The photo below is the upstream side of the Thomson Road Bridge as seen from the south bank of the Forbay Canal. Note that the water level is relatively high in this photo following an early snowstorm in October, 2010, that melted very quickly causing spring-like water levels in the Saint Louis River.

Thomson Road Bridge
Thomson Road Bridge
These two photos are summer views of the Thomson Road Bridge. The photo above is looking north down the center of the bridge deck, while the photo below is the downstream east face of the bridge.

Thomson Road Bridge
Thomson Road Bridge
A storm of historic proportions hit the Duluth area on June 19-20, 2012, dropping 11 inches in some areas. The Thomson Dam overtopped resulting in a large flow of water to surge down the Forbay Canal, blowing out the side of the canal and creating a new river channel through Jay Cooke State Park. The canal was drained and left in a dewatered state as repairs took over two years to complete. The photo above is looking downstream from the Thomson Road Bridge, while the photo below is the canal on the upstream side of the highway.

Thomson Road Bridge

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