Minneapolis: Meeting April 9 on replacement for St. Anthony Parkway bridge


At the other end of the Camden Bridge, there’s another new bridge and detours in the future, and there’s a meeting soon to discuss the design.

Tearing down and replacing the old St. Anthony Parkway bridge that goes over a railroad yard can be complicated, it turns out, as said bridge is historically significant.

Residents, primarily from the Marshall Terrace and Columbia Park neighborhoods, started meeting with city officials in 2009 to discuss the project. After all eventually agreed that the old bridge needed replacing, the city presented several design options. While some neighbors favored a newer, sleek design, others preferred a more historic look that they said better fit the neighborhood. One option, a cable stayed bridge, was initially a front runner in 2010, until a similar type—the Martin Olav Sabo Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge on Hiawatha Avenue in South Minneapolis—failed in 2012, five years after it was built, and needed repair.

The city has proposed a new option, a hybrid tiered arch with girders. The final design, however, is still under discussion.

A public meeting/open house, titled “Replacement of the St. Anthony Parkway Bridge over Northtown Yard in Northeast Minneapolis,” will be Tuesday, April 9, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at River Village East community room, 2929 Randolph St. NE. Presented by the city’s public works department, it will include photos and drawings, discussion, and a question and answer period. Participants will be asked to comment (and fill out comment cards at the meeting’s end) on the type and design of the new bridge, as well as proposed mitigation measures.

The history and the problem

The St. Anthony Parkway Bridge, built in 1925, is a 533.6 foot five-span Warren through truss that crosses over 24 tracks of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Rail Yard. City engineers have been calling for its replacement since 1994. In 2000, historian Charlene Roise examined the bridge (known as number 90664) for the City of Minneapolis. She discovered that it is rare; only two other Warren through truss bridges existed among the state’s highway bridges, and both were built pre-1913.

Engineers, in more recent studies, concluded that the 90-plus year old bridge had reached the end of its useful life. Repair would not only cost more than replacement, they said, but also last only half as long as a new bridge. After the city submitted a Fracture Critical Inspection report to the federal government in 2007—which found that the bridge’s concrete cap and steel stringers at one pier were compromised—workers repaired the damage.

Although its age defeats restoration plans, its design and location make the St. Anthony Parkway Bridge historically significant in more ways than one. Not only is it eligible for registration on the National Register of Historic Places (which won’t save it), it is also part of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway. (The Grand Rounds is a 50-mile Minneapolis Park and Recreation trail that links park areas in Minneapolis.)

And one more thing: The St. Anthony Parkway Bridge is located in a historic railroad district.

What does that all mean? Briefly: when the old bridge goes away, state and federal officials will be looking closely at its replacement.

Mary Ann Heidemann, manager of Government Programs and Compliance with Minnesota Historical Society’s State Historic Preservation Office, said, “Because the new bridge will be located in two historic districts (Grand Rounds and Railroad), the design of the new bridge will be reviewed by our office. Also, because a National Register bridge is being lost, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) is being developed, with stipulations that will help mitigate the loss, and minimize adverse effect to the historic districts. Under the MOA, our historic architect will take a look at the various designs being proposed. In design review, we follow the Secretary of Interior Guidelines for new construction within an historic district. However, before that design review takes place, I believe the City will be scheduling another public meeting to update interested parties about the progress of the project. We have asked the Federal Highway Administration and MnDOT to hold off on selecting a “preferred design” until after the meeting, and after the MOA is actually signed.”

Project manager and bridge engineer Jack Yuzna, of the city’s public works department, said that mitigation might include a kiosk at the bridge site with background information on the historic bridge and area, the importance of the Grand Rounds to the community, and the history of the railroad. “There will be historical recordation of the structure, archival photos, and plans and measurements of the bridge that would be kept for posterity,” he added.

Yuzna said that right now, the Burlington Northern owns the bridge because it is a railroad crossing. (Actually it crosses over the railroad tracks. Trains don’t run on it but cars, bikes and pedestrians do). “At the end of the day, the city will own the bridge.” He said about 4,000 cars and trucks cross it daily. Buses, however, no longer can use it, because in recent years they were deemed too heavy for safe passage. “The new bridge will be able to hold buses,” Yuzna said. He said a ballpark figure, just for construction costs of the new bridge, will be more than $20 million. The money will likely come from federal, state, city, and railroad resources.

Marshall Terrace neighborhood resident Patrick Kvidera said, “I personally favor a reasonable cost bridge with reasonable maintenance needed to keep it up. Of course, it must meet today’s standards for clearance and weight requirements as well as being reasonable to build over the operational/operating railroad yard. That is a major factor in all the discussions. Part of our concern is the bus detour and how soon the new bridge can be operational and the detour removed.”

Yuzna can be reached at 612-673-2415, or by e-mail, jack.yuzna@minneapolismn.gov.