BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 178

Photo courtesy of Josh Driver via Instagram. Link: https://www.instagram.com/joshdriver_photography/

How many of you have visited a winter carnival? What were some of your impressions? At this time of year, we have winter carnevals, featuring ice sculptures, sculpting competitions, lots of entertainment, but most importantly, lots of ice architecture, including the ice palace. In the Twin Cities in Minnesota, we have winter carnevals every two years, pending on the weather. The biggest event is on the Minneapolis side at Lake Harriet, yet there are smaller winter events throughout the metropolitan area.

This includes Stillwater, where this photo was taken. The Stillwater Lift Bridge was built in 1931 by J.A.L. Waddell and John Lyle Harrington and features a ten-span through truss bridge, one of the spans is a vertical life, allowing ships along the St. Croix River to pass through. It had served traffic, highway 36 until 2017 when the highway was rerouted to the cable-stayed bridge to the south. Afterwards, the bridge underwent an extensive, three-year project to restore the bridge to its original glory and repurpose it as an interstate bike trail between Minnesota and Wisconsin. It reopened last year and is now a loop trail that connects this historic bridge with its successor.

A lot has changed with the lift bridge, as there are no more cars waiting at the bridge and much of the traffic is now to the south. At the same time, Stillwater has become a bigger tourist attraction with more pedestrians and cyclists who would like to store-shop along the historic river front, containing many buildings that are at least 150 years old. And for pontists and bridge-lovers, as well as photographers, like Josh Driver, it provides some extended time to photograph the bridge from whatever angle best suits the person. This was taken at the time of the Stillwater winter festival shortly after the snow storm, showing the newly restored historic bridge with its glamorous lighting and beautiful coat of forest green paint. A perfect example of why a person should visit Stillwater- shop for the day, but stay for the bridge. 🙂

Your Bridge Matters!

Twin Spans in Minnesota: The Answer

Photo courtesy of Minnesota Dept. of Transportation

And now to the answer to the question of Twin Spans in Minnesota, which is in connection with the recently published article on the Winona Bridge (see here). Some people may contest to the fact that there are three such twin spans- consisting of the original span and a sister span built alongside it to alleviate traffic. It is true that there is another pair of bridges located 60+ miles down south along the Mississippi River in LaCrosse, Wisconsin with a cantilever truss bridge (built in 1939) and a tied arch bridge (built in 2001), the latter of which carries eastbound traffic featuring US Hwys. 14 and 61 and Wisconsin Hwy. 16.  However, the crossing is only a mile southeast of the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, ironically crossed by another pair of bridges built in the 1970s. Technically, when speaking of borders, the LaCrosse Bridges do not count.

The first crossing that featured an original bridge which later had a sibling span to serve traffic is the Hudson Bridge, spanning the St. Croix River at the Minnesota-Wisconsin Border, west of Hudson.  Originally carrying US Hwy. 12, which was later superseded by I-94, the Hudson Bridge’s history dates as far back as 1911, when the first crossing was built and christened The Hudson Toll Bridge. A product of the Central States Bridge Company of Indianapolis, the 1051-foot long bridge was built on a causeway which started from the business district and ended with the driver making a 10° incline up the Warren deck truss approach spans, before crossing the 136-foot long polygonal Warren through truss span with Lattice portal bracings and riveted connections.  After that and crossing the approach span the driver ended up in Minnesota. Tolls were collected on the causeway on the Hudson side.

Photo courtesy of MnDOT

Yet because of the increase in boat and auto traffic and the coming of the freeways that would later shape the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area, it necessitated the construction of a new bridge, located a half mile south of the Toll Bridge. When completed in 1951, the truss span was relocated to LeFarge, Wisconsin, where it spanned the Kickapoo River before its removal for safety concerns in 1986. The causeway itself was retained and now serves as an observation point with many piers from the old bridge to be seen on both sides of the river.

The Hudson Interstate Bridge was completed in 1951 and featured two lanes of traffic encased in seven spans of Warren through truss bridges with riveted connections and X-frame portal and strut bracings. The main spans, featuring a cantilever through truss span totalled over 700 feet with the entire structure totalling 1,700 feet. The Interstate Bridge served as a single entity until 1973, when a girder span was built to the south of the bridge and accomodated eastbound traffic of US Hwy. 12. The truss span served westbound traffic. Both spans were reconstructed in the 1980s when US 12 was converted to I-94.

Person crossing the Interstate Bridge. Photo taken by MnDOT

Unfortunately when flooding occurred in 1993, both states made haste to build a new span to replace the truss structure for floodwaters damaged the structure to a point where it not only could no longer carry heavy traffic, but it was literally falling apart, with cracks appearing in the steel. In fact the situation was so dire that an emergency lane on the newer structure was made for heavier vehicles going westbound was created. Officials claimed that had this not been done, the bridge would literally have fallen into the waters of the St. Croix, taking many lives with. When the new span opened in 1995, little effort was need to push the 1951 truss spans into the water and cut them up unto scrap metal. The truss spans did not last even a half century because of the wear and tear that had occurred on the structure. Yet had the flooding not occurred in 1993, chances are likely that the bridge would still have been retained even though plans would have been in the making for a new bridge anyway because of the high volume of traffic combined with the events that happened on the I-35W Bridge in 2007. How long the bridge would actually have survived remains unclear.

Since 1995 there has not been a double-span arrangement similar to the Hudson Bridge in Minnesota, but with plans in the making for a sibling span in Winona, we will have the second such arrangement ever built in the state, but the first one in 21 years when completed in 2016. Given the height of the 1940 cantilever truss span combined with the scheduled rehabilitation to follow, it is highly doubtful that the Winona Bridge will suffer the same fate as the bridge in Hudson, but that depends on how the structure handles traffic both on the highway as well as those in the water when passing underneath. If people treat the bridge with care, the bridge will perhaps last a generation or two longer than expected.

Some information and write-ups can be found by clicking on the links marked in the text, including those by John Weeks III.  Special thanks to Minnesota DOT for the information and photos provided for this article.