Long Meadow Bridge in Bloomington, Minnesota

Side view of the Long Meadow Bridge and plane enroute to the Twin Cities International Airport. Photo taken in August 2011

Inspite the number of historic bridges being demolished or wiped away because of natural disasters, there are a few bright spots to consider. The Long Meadow Bridge in Bloomington, MN is one of them.  Spanning the Long Meadow Lake arm of the Minnesota carrying Old Cedar Avenue, this 1920 structure, featuring five riveted Parker through truss spans with M-frame portal bracings has had a long history in itself. The current structure is the second crossing at this site where a major thoroughway used to exist. Originally connecting Minneapolis with the southern suburbs of Apple Valley, Bloomington and other smaller towns, Cedar Avenue used to be a major throughway back in the times where freeways did not even exist, with three major bridges carrying the major highway- Tenth Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, the Minnesota River Swing Bridge, and this one, located just to the north of the Swing Bridge. The Swing Bridge and this bridge were built at the same time in 1890, with the latter featuring trestle approaches a possibily a swing span as its main span. Evidence of this can be found in pictures, as shown by John Weeks, who has visited this bridge many times (click here for pictures).  Yet for some reason, be it lack of boat traffic or flooding, the swing span and trestles at Long Meadow Lake were replaced with a series of fixed spans in 1920, which has not been altered since then.  Both bridges served traffic crossing the island and providing access between the southern suburbs, the International Airport and downtown Minneapolis. This was until the bridges were rendered useless with the construction of the tied arch bridges in 1979, and Cedar Avenue (which had become Hwy. 77 in 1949) was rerouted to this freeway bridge. Sections of Cedar Avenue were eventually either rerouted or cut off with the construction of the Hwy. 62 Crosstown and I-494 Freeways, while the swing span over the Minnesota River was torn down shortly after the opening of the Hwy. 77 Bridge in 1980. Yet the Long Meadow Lake Bridge continued to serve traffic until it was deemed unsafe and was closed to cars in 1993 and later to all pedestrians and cyclists in 2002, fencing it off and removing 30 feet of decking on each side of the bridge. Despite the construction of a pedestrian bridge south of the bridge over the Minnesota River, there has not been any access to the airport, Mall of America (built in 1991) and the rest of the Twin Cities from the south.

But that is about to change!

For years, officials from several aspects of government, including the City of Bloomington, the National Park Service, the National Wildlife Preserve, and the state government have been wrestling over the future of the bridge, with the majority of the Bloomington City Council wanting to see the bridge torn down and replaced with a berm or a new crossing, and the federal agencies wanting the bridge to be kept as it is part of the national wildlife refuge which includes 35 miles of wildlife along the Minnesota River starting at Ft. Snelling State Park south of St.Paul. With the fight lingering, it seemed that there would be no end in site, and the bridge would eventually become part of naturing, decaying slowly but surely.

But recent decisions made this month has given the Long Meadow Bridge new life. This is thanks to Representative Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, who had been fighting to provide funding for the reconstruction of the structure. How she successfully accomplish this task though required some clever thinking and some support from House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL- Minneapolis and Governor Mark Dayton, DFL. The scoop: The Mall of America. Built in 1991 as the largest mall in the country at that time, officials wanted to expand the facility to include more shopping, lodging, gambling and parking possibilities, a project worth over $1.5 billion.  State legislators on 22 May agreed on a proposal to provide $250 million towards the project and additional $9 million for the bridge. There was a catch though, which was no cent would be spent unless the City of Bloomington agreed to reconstruct the bridge.  While the city breathed a sign a relief that funding is available and were very forthcoming on the proposal, they had another catch to the plan: officials cannot tear down and replace the bridge!

10 days ago, the Long Meadow Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its association with the type of bridge used during the 1920s, when the era of standardized truss bridges with riveted connections and heavy steel to accomodate traffic was in full motion. It was also part of the history of the Old Cedar Avenue and for many residents, the history of Bloomington itself.  With its listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the bridge will receive new life as a pedestrian and bicycle bridge as it will undergo extensive rennovation to reopen the important link between the southern suburbs and the airport and the Twin Cities.

How this bridge will be rehabilitated remains unclear. Judging by the author’s visit in 2011, combined with inspections done by the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation, the major problems contractors will be facing will be the decking portion of the bridge, as many floorbeams and cross beams have corroded away to a point of irreparability and will have to be replaced. Yet if lessons are learned from three other examples, the Merriam Street, Washington Avenue and 4th Avenue Bridges, it is most likely that the Long Meadow Bridge may be set into a concrete bridge, which will function as the main bridge with the truss bridge being the ornament. On the other hand, if wood decking is needed, than new steel beams will be needed to support the deck and to function as a standing structure.  The superstructure itself appears to be in great condition despite the rust but will most likely be repainted so that it is protected against weather extremities. While it is unclear what the condition of the piers are, learning the lessons from the collapse of a railroad bridge in Calgary, Alberta (Canada) because of flooding, it is most likely that they will have to be inspected for scouring and be reinforced and or replaced.  And lastly, the old highway will need to be cleared of downed trees and other vegetation which had taken over since 2002. The road does not necessarily need to be replaced  as it still retains its historic character, yet some touch-ups will be needed to ensure that safety and aesthetics go together like bread and butter.

The hill will be steep to climb regarding rehabilitating the bridge, but one can use $9 million wisely to make the bridge what it was before it was closed to all traffic and return the bridge to its original form- as a piece of history connecting three key points. Thanks to Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, the wish of restoring the bridge and opening it up again will become a reality. The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on this bridge.


Photo taken in August 2011
Ariel view of the Cedar Avenue Bridge taken in 1968 by MnDOT. The expressway bridge built 600 feet south of the bridge was built 10 years later.


Cedar Avenue Swing Bridge over the Minnesota River built south of the Long Meadow Bridge. Portal view of the bridge photographed by MnDOT
Oblique view of the Cedar Avenue Swing Bridge over the Minnesota River in an open formation. Photo taken by MnDOT

You can see a gallery with photos taken of the bridge by the author with some details and explanations here.

Flooding threatens Historic Bridge Weekend

Hale Bridge near Anamosa in Jones County. Photo taken in 2010

Record Flooding Expected in Jones, Delaware and Linn Counties. Anamosa already flooded. County Fairs already cancelled.

Of all the weather-related abnormalities that we have been facing this year- late spring, drought, and unusually high number of tornadoes, the abnormality we’ve been facing the most this year has been flooding. And the one area that definitely does not need any more water now is the northern half of the United States.

This includes the State of Iowa, which is bracing itself for another record flood.

Heavy rains have caused some flooding in many parts of the state so far this summer, but the primary concern at the moment is the eastern portion of the state. There, the counties of Jones, Linn, Delaware, Allamakee, and Buchanan are bracing themselves for record floods, a first in five years in many areas.  Especially hardest hit will be the areas along the Wapsipinicon River, in places like Anamosa, Central City, Paris, Independence and Manchester, where the river has already flown over its banks and the levels are rising faster than the city can keep up with the sandbagging efforts. Already, parts of Central City and Anamosa are under water and with record crests expected, people are trying to minimize the damage as much as they can, including the ones in the vicinity of Anamosa, who had previously experienced record flooding in 2008. Already these counties have cancelled their annual fair and livestock exhibits but the cancellation of more events appear more likely as the river rises.

Historic Bridge Weekend to be relocated:

The unfortunate part about the flooding along the Wapsipinicon River and some other areas in the east central part of Iowa is that these areas are highly populated with historic bridges, including the ones in Jones County, where six bridges built in 1920 and earlier span the river. This includes the Hale, Anamosa City and Shaw Road Bridges located four miles from each other. Although these bridges are on the places to visit list for the Historic Bridge Weekend in August (even though that may change), the primary concern at the moment is the venue for Friday night. As mentioned in the announcement, the Dedication Dinner honoring James Hippen for his work on historic bridges was scheduled to take place at the Stone City General Store and Restaurant west of Anamosa on Friday night, August 9th beginning at 6:30pm.  The event is on as scheduled, but a new venue is most likely needed for according to reports, the General Store, located right next to the river, is expected to be flooded. A back-up plan is in the works and an update will be provided as soon as a venue is found. Please note that the time may change with the venue, so please plan accordingly when coming to the Friday night event.  Other changes in the schedule are expected, especially when reports come in on the damages from the flooding to not only the Anamosa area and those along the Wapsipinicon River, but also to the bridges affected by the floods.

If you have a venue that you think would be best suitable for the Friday night portion of the Historic Bridge Weekend, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.  The venue of the event must be in the northeastern corner of the state in the vicinity of Dubuque, Delaware, Linn and Jones Counties, but NOT in the areas affected by the flooding.

Links to the flood update are found here:







Red Bridge in Jasper County in visier of the Historic Bridge Weekend:

While out of tour range, a pair of Jasper County bridges are on the list of bridges to visit for this year’s Historic Bridge Weekend given their proximity to Marion County, the site of the Sunday matinee at Red Rock Visitor’s Center and evening dinner in Pella. The Red Bridge and the 126th Avenue Bridge are both located over the South Skunk River, approximately five river miles from each other. The former was built in 1892 by H.S. Efnor, a local contractor, and features a Warren through truss bridge similar to the Dietzenbach Bottom Bridge in Fayette County, but with a Pratt pony truss approach span. The latter was built by George E. King in 1899 and is a Pratt through truss bridge. Both bridges are closed to traffic and are scheduled to be demolished. However, a group is trying to save the Red Bridge from being scrapped. The bridge has been closed to traffic for over 10 years and part of the structure has collapsed because of flooding. The group, which you can view the page here, wants to save the bridge and reuse it for recreational purposes.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 25: The Chaska Swing Bridge

The 1905 engraving on the abutment of the north approach truss span. Photo courtesy of John Marvig






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There are many characteristics that made the Twin Cities and its metropolitan area unique during the first half of the 20th Century. This includes historic bridges built by many bridge builders, like Commodore Jones, Alexander Bayne and the Hewett family,  who made their fortunes manufacturing bridges parts to be erected in Minnesota, South Dakota and places to the west.  Many bridges built between 1880 and 1920 made their mark along the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers as well as over railroads, whether they were stone arch bridges or those made of iron and steel.

The 1896 Chaska Swing Bridge before it was replaced by the Hwy. 41 bridge in 1959 and later in 2011. It was one of two crossing the Minnesota River and one of many bridges built by Gillette and Herzog, a Minneapolis bridge building firm. Photo courtesy of MnDOT.

Between the mouth of the Mississippi River and Mankato, as many as two dozen bridges were constructed between the aforementioned time periods. Yet a quarter of these structures were swing bridges. Consisting of a single span through truss bridge supported on a central pier, a swing bridge turns on the center pier from the river bank towards the middle of the river, allowing ships to pass through.  Bloomington, Savage, Shakopee, Chaska and Belle Plaine had their own swing spans before shipping traffic ceased to exist in the 1930s and were consequentially rendered useless and replaced with fixed span bridges. The Dan Patch Swing Bridge near Savage is the only example of such a swing bridge left along the Minnesota River. Even though the bridge used to serve both rail and vehicular traffic, like the Lindaunis Bridge in Germany, since Canadian Pacific has owned the bridge, the structure is used exclusively for trains.

Dan Patch Swing Bridge near Savage. Photo taken by John Marvig

This mystery bridge article deals with the Chaska Swing Bridge. Located over the Minnesota River between Chaska and Carver, the bridge served as an important railroad link connecting  Chaska and Shakopee between the time it was built in 1871 (rebuilt in 1890 and 1900) and the time it was discontinued by 1972 when its owner the Milwaukee Railroad abandoned the line. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources purchased it in 1978 to be converted into a bike trail.  This bridge and two other crossings along the line became part of the earlier version of the rail to trail that was supposed to connect Chaska and Shakopee with Bloomington and points to the north. Yet the vision for this riveted steel truss bridge, which featured a Pratt through truss north approach span, was short-lived for despite renovations done on the bridge, the structure was condemned in 1996 when inspectors found that the bridge was sinking and the approach span was shifting. This may have had something to do with the floods in 1993, but there was no concrete evidence to support this claim.  As a safety precaution, on 22 August, 1996, the bridge was imploded. All that remains today are the piers from the approach span and the abutments.  The rest of the bike trail was abandoned after a nearby trestle near Chaska was arsoned on 11 October of that same year. The connection between Chaska and Shakopee was lost until 2011, when the trail was rerouted to the Hwy. 41 Bridge. This coincided with the demolition of the Carver Railroad Bridge, which occurred at the same time. There is hope that this route may be revived in the form of new bridges built at the site of the old railroad bridges in Carver and Chaska, including that of the Swing Bridge.

John Marvig needs your help regarding the bridge. He is currently writing a book about railroad bridges in Minnesota and, he’s looking for information as to who built the structure in 1871 as well as ca. 1900, when the first structure made of iron was replaced by the steel structure, which was in service until it was demolished in 1996. In addition, information on the bridge builder responsible for the north approach span built in 1905 is needed as well.  Exact dates of the construction and the bridge builders, whom the railroad had contracted the project to, would be much useful  to solve the mystery of the Chaska Swing Bridge. If you have any information, please contact him using this e-mail address:


You can also view the information that has been collected and used so far by clicking here.  More information on other bridges in the Twin Cities to come soon on the Chronicles.

Newsflyer 24 June, 2013

Saale-Elster Viaduct in Halle (Saale) during its construction. Photo taken in June 2011


Longest railroad viaduct in Germany completed; German Autobahn viaduct demolished; I-5 Bridge in Washington state reopened; conception of a truss bridge in Virginia;

A lot of activities went on this weekend involving several bridges in the US and Europe, but the biggest ones happened to occur in Germany, for while several historic bridges have fallen to progress, one made history even though it is not open to traffic just yet. Here are the headlines you need to know.

Saale-Elster Viaduct under construction. Photo taken in June 2011

Saale-Elster Viaduct near Halle (Saale) completed. To be used for rail traffic in 2016.

6.5 kilometers long- equivalent to over four miles.  20-30 meters tall, tall enough to ride over the waters of the Saale and White Elster Rivers even if the fields and roads are underwater. All concrete except for the steel through arch span spanning a 2.1 kilometer approach viaduct connecting Halle (Saale) and the main railline. Those are the features of the new Saale-Elster Viaduct, which was completed this past Saturday at a cost of over 800 million Euros, mostly financed by the federal government and the Die Bahn (German Railways). It is part of the multi-billion Euro project that has been ongoing since 1992 and features not only this bridge, but hundreds of other bridges and tunnels as the new ICE-train route will connect Leipzig and Halle with Nuremberg via Erfurt. When the bridge is open to traffic at the beginning of 2016, all trips between Berlin and Munich as well as Frankfurt (Main) and Dresden will be cut in half as the ICE trains are expected to travel up to 350 kmph (180 mph) to their destinations. The viaduct can be seen along the InterCity railline connecting Halle (Saale) and Jena just after crossing the historic Skopau Bridge spanning the Saale River south of the southernmost city in Saxony-Anhalt. This bridge is not only the longest railroad viaduct in Germany- even surpassing another ICE-Viaduct the Rombachtal Viaduct in eastern Hesse, which still holds the title as the second tallest in Germany. The bridge is the longest vehicular viaduct in Germany, surpassing the Motorway A6 viaduct near Neckarsulm in Baden- Wurttemberg.


The Skopau Railroad Bridge serving the IC Jena-Halle line and the Saale River bike trail. From here you can see the newly completed longest viaduct in Germany. Photo taken in June 2011
The Rombachtal Viaduct in eastern Hesse spanning the Rombach and the Eisenach- Kassel railline carrying the Frankfurt-Hamburg ICE line between Fulda and Kassel. Photo taken in May 2010


Autobahn Motorway viaduct near Fulda demolished.

Heading 230 kilometers to the southwest to northwestern Bavaria, another viaduct made the headlines but in a different way. Located in Bad Bruckenau in the district of Bad Kissingen, east of Frankfurt (Main), the Sinnetal Viaduct made headlines for the 46 year-old viaduct made of steel and concrete was imploded on Saturday. As many as 8,000 spectators watched in awe as explosives installed in the concrete columns were detonated, and the entire structure fell 100 meters to the ground in four seconds. Built in 1967 to serve the longest and most heavily traveled Autobahn A7 connecting Flensburg and Austria, the 800 meter long bridge became the poster boy of how concrete bridges were treated, with salt and other substances that penetrated the concrete and steel causing rust and erosion, and with heavily travelled vehicles, some of which went over the weight and height limit. Already in 2009, construction had started on its replacement and was completed and opened to traffic at the beginning of this year. The demolition of the old bridge (shown here in this article) should serve as a reminder to state and federal agencies that even modern bridges require maintenance in order for them to last longer than 50 years. There’s no such thing as a bridge requiring no maintenance and lasting 100 years and the Sinnetal Bridge should serve as an example for agencies to rethink the way bridges are being handled by traffic.

The Magodee Bridge (old) being lifted by crane. Photo taken by Donald Sowers, used with permission

Truss bridge replaced with another truss bridge. Old bridge to be reused.

Sometimes it is not necessary to replace truss bridges with concrete bridges, but with another truss bridge. Such trends have been reported in states, like Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Virginia, for they are conventional and the aesthetics match the scenery than a white bland bridge. But for this bridge, the Magodee Bridge in Franklin County, Virginia, it may set a new trend for other historic bridges receiving new life. The 1929 Warren pony truss was replaced recently with- another Warren pony truss! The length is almost identical and both have riveted connections! The difference? The new pony truss bridge is now used for vehicular traffic, while the old pony truss span, now located behind the old mill, as seen in the pics courtesy of Donald Sowers, will receive new life as a pedestrian bridge located only a few hundred meters from the existing structure! Wouldn’t you like to have an old bridge and a new nearly identical span located not far from each other being used as a tourist trap? For the owner of the mill and the old bridge, the dream will become a reality. For more information on how to make the reality come true, please contact Mr. Sowers at this e-mail address: desowers@centurylink.net.

The new Magodee Bridge with the old span behind the mill. Photo taken by Donald Sowers, used with permission

I-5 Washington Bridge reopens but on restrictions

Nearly a month after the spectactular collapse of the Skagit River Interstate 5 Bridge in Washington state, the collapsed portion of the bridge was rebuilt, using Bailey trusses, and the bridge was reopened to traffic on Friday. But there are several exceptions: No oversized trucks and vehicles requiring special permits will be allowed to use the bridge and will be forced to take the detours that have been used since the collapse. The speed limit has been reduced to 40 mph instead of 60 as enforced before the accident. And the spans are only temporary as the state and federal governments are planning a more permanent crossing, although it is unclear whether the temporary span will be rebuilt as a permanent span or if the entire bridge itself, built in 1956 featuring a Warren through truss design, will be demolished in favor of a newer and even wider bridge. The Chronicles will keep you up to date on the developments regarding the bridge.

29 new bridges in 19 kilometers along the German Autobahn 9!

Built in 1936, the German Autobahn Motorway 9, connecting Berlin and Munich is known as the oldest freeway in Germany, and one of the oldest freeways in the world with many historic markers, including the oldest motorway inn Rodatal in Thuringia, the Vockeroda Bridge and neon marker in Saxony-Anhalt, the Hirschberg Restaurant, one of only two located over the motorway in Germany, and the Bridge of German Unity located at the Bavaria-Thuringia border which also served as the border crossing between East and West Germany. Since 1990 the 530 kilometer (330 mile) route was expanded from four lanes with no emergency lanes to six lanes with emergency lanes to provide safety and efficiency along the highway. This includes the replacement of bridges and overpasses dating as far back as 1936. At the present time, construction is commencing on the last bottleneck between Triptis in Thuringia and the Bavarian border- a span of 20 kilometers. With that, the last of the 1936 bridges and overpassees are coming down for they no longer are able to accomodate the increase in traffic. This includes 18 overpasses and the expansion of the border bridge, built in 1966 replacing the 1936 structure that was destroyed in World War II. Overall, there will be 29 new bridges with modern but attractive appearances when the project is finished in 2014. This includes the railroad bridge connecting the rail line between Schleiz and Ziegenrück on the Saale River. Out of service since 1990, there is hope that funding is available to build a new bridge and connect the two villages by train. At the moment, a dandyhorse rail service is being used by tourists, but once the railroad overpass is completed and the line reopened, the area will become a magnet for tourists again.

Ohio Covered Bridge Destroyed by Arson- Arsonist being sought







Spanning Raccoon Creek on Covered Bridge, four miles southwest of Wilkesville in Vinton County, the Ponn Humpback Covered Bridge was one of the biggest tourist attractions of the six covered bridges. At 180 feet, the multiple-span kingpost truss bridge was the longest that existed in the county, built in 1874 by Martin McGrath and Lyman Wells and was bypassed by a pony truss bridge built in 2008, with the historic structure being converted into a pedestrian trail. Now the bridge is nothing but a memory.

Vinton County officials are looking for information and leads that will eventually result in the arrest and conviction of person(s) responsible for a fire, which destroyed the entire structure on 6 June. The reward is set at up to $5000.  According to county officials, the incident ocurred during the morning hours and the structure burned to the ground. The bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is considered a total loss. It is unknown whether the bridge will be rebuilt or not, but county and state officials will look into those options.

Prior to the arson, suspicion of parties involving alcohol and campfires had been reported by many passers-by which included litter and beer cans. It was a question of time before a fire caught the covered bridge and brought it down. That day unfortunately came and now the county is grieving over the loss of an important structure which many people visited while passing through Vinton County.  This is the second fire this year that destroyed a historic bridge. A fire at a wooden viaduct in Texas last month destroyed the entire structure (a video can be found here).

If you have any information useful to the case, please contact the Vinton County Sheriff’s Office at: 740-592-5242    or the Ohio State Fire Marshal (which is overseeing the case) at: 1-800-579-2728    The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the bridge.

Links to the bridge can be found through the Bridgehunter website by clicking on here.

Doug Chapman and Bill Eichenberger have provided some pictures of the bridge before and after the fire, which you can see here:

The Bridge before a pony truss bridge was built alongside it. Photo taken by Bill Eichenberger
The Humpback Bridge (right) and the truss bridge built in 2008 (left)  Photos taken by Doug Chapman

The bridge after the fire with the reward for arson sign.