This bridge is a highly significant example of both a vertical lift bridge, and also as a multi-span truss bridge, both rare in Minnesota. The bridge still operates for boats and can be raised to provide up to 65 feet of clearance above normal water level. When lowered, there is only 17 feet of clearance. The bridge contains from west to east, two concrete t-beam spans, one fixed Parker truss span, one vertical lift Parker truss span, and five fixed Parker truss spans. The lift span towers are structurally integrated with the adjacent fixed truss spans.
One of the key aspects of this bridge is that it was designed to look beautiful. The bridge features a unique circular "concourse" at the eastern end, which is immediately west of two concrete t-beam approach spans. This concourse and t-beam span have attractive original balustrade railings and original lighting is retained here as well. The t-beams have an attractive haunched design. The truss spans have a clean appearance and the Parker configuration gives a pleasing arch shape. The numerous fixed approach truss spans take on a similar appearance and design as the lift span. The truss spans have lost their original railings, but these were replaced with modern railings that appear to closely replicate the original railings.
The bridge is a span drive vertical lift bridge meaning that the operating machinery is located on the lift span. However, unlike many bridges of this type, the machinery house is not located on top of the truss, but is instead cantilevered off of the truss at deck level. This allows for the uphaul and downhaul cables that transfer operating power to the lift span to be cleverly concealed along the bottom chord.
This bridge was designed by Ash, Howard, Needles, and Tammen, which was the successor to Waddell and Harrington, a major proponent of vertical lift bridges. Ash, Howard, Needles, and Tammen has evolved into HNTB Corporation today.
This bridge is an extremely busy bridge. As the early photos will show, rush hour backups on the bridge can reach almost across the entire length of the bridge! For a while, this bridge was at risk for demolition and replacement, despite its iconic appearance and historic significance. However, the current plan is to built a new high level fixed bridge in a new location in the area, and to preserve the historic lift bridge for pedestrian traffic. This is an outstanding solution that will address the traffic backups, while also removing this heavy traffic from the bridge, and making sure the bridge remains in existence for future generations to enjoy.
The previous bridge at this location was an unusual hodgepodge of timber spans, and included a pontoon span to allow boats through. This previous bridge was diagramed in the plans for the existing bridge as shown below.
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