A well-known fact is one of Minneapolis, Minnesota’s birthplaces of origin, situated at the Saint Anthony Falls on the mighty Mississippi River. This historical place is also the site of the Stone Arch Bridge, built in 1883 by James J. Hill for the Great Northern Railway. This former railroad bridge, located in downtown Minneapolis, has become the epitome for the past, present, and future vision of the city.
An old and historic landmark, the Stone Arch Bridge has become the most visited tourist attraction, and now serves as a pedestrian and bicycle bridge with confounding views of the downtown skyline, the historic falls, and the Historic Main Street which once carried carriages and covered the tunnels to the flour mills. During the summer months, the Stone Arch Bridge is the focus of numerous festivals in the area of St. Anthony Main and Historic Main Street, such as the Stone Arch Festival of the Arts, fireworks displays on the Fourth of July and during the Minneapolis Aquatennial.
While driving or biking along the vast Mississippi River Parkway system, it becomes distinctly apparent that Minneapolis is a city of many bridges. Many of these bridges help depict stories of Minneapolis’ origin. Either with the University’s Washington Avenue Bridge or with the recent grand opening of the Lowry Avenue Bridge, a new staple of the Nordeast community of Minneapolis, or the newly constructed I-35W Bridge following its fatal collapse in 2007, new and innovative technologies are being tested such as multi-chromatic decorative lighting, used to illuminate the structure at night.
Of more inherent importance, however, is the function of these bridges. Not only do they serve as main arterials for commuters and connectors between the different banks of the city while appearing aesthetically pleasing, they also serve the multi-modal transportation of accommodating both motorized and non-motorized transportation (i.e.: LRT, BRT, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, freight, rail.) What’s even more vital to the sustainability and urban planning principles of Minneapolis is that bicycle lanes are also now becoming a standard for all new bridges.
How can bridges serve the dual function of utilitarian and aesthetic purposes while better accommodating non-motorized transportation? In addition, how can newly constructed bridges remain true to the existing character of the city?
Images by Jasna Hadzic. Data & images linked to sources.