I’m going to skip the 35E River Bridge – officially the “Lexington” Bridge. Who cares?
After the 35W River Bridge collapse, Amy Klobuchar famously remarked that bridges just don’t fall down in America.
But if you read the history of the Smith Avenue High Bridge, you’d realize she should have added “But barely”.
First things first; when I show people the Twin Cities at night, there are two views that
are were topmost on the agenda; the first was always Minneapolis, coming into town from the north on 35W at night. The second, always, was downtown Saint Paul viewed from the south side of the High Bridge. The vista of downtown in all its warm, brownstone glory is really stunning.
Like this view…:
…but at night.
Of course, to get to that view, you have to stomach a bit of history. The bridge geek carries on:
Claim to fame: the ornamental iron work is made from iron salvaged from the old bridge that this bridge replaced. At 160 feet tall, it is the highest bridge in St. Paul.
The old high bridge was made of wrought iron, and opened in 1889.
A storm in 1905 destroyed part of the bridge, which was rebuilt using mild steel.
It was a spindly looking structure that looked more like it was made out of metal toothpicks. The bridge closed in the 1980’s, and was imploded in 1985.
But the troubles weren’t over:
The new bridge opened in 1987, and was heralded as one of the seven engineering wonders of Minnesota. The huge steel supports under the bridge looked like a giant letter W, with the two bottom points sitting on piers, and the center forming a large steel arch.
As soon as it got cold, the bridge contracted a little more than was planned, and one of the steel sections shifted, causing the center point of the W to no longer meet. Instead, the two beams shifted 11 inches, leaving a huge drop-off on the bridge. The bridge was closed several months while engineers designed a way to move the arches back into position and remove the ski-jump from the roadway.
Note to Nick Coleman; who was the governor in 1985?
A newspaper account from January 22, 1962, states that a car left the old high bridge, landed upside down on a telephone line, was sprung back up into the air, and landed upright with no passenger injuries. I guess that is what makes winter driving so much fun in Minnesota.
But wotta view.