Updated: 10/27/2012 9:53 PM KSTP.com By: Mark Saxenmeyer
More than three years after it was demolished during an implosion, Minneapolis has one of its landmarks back. The Lowry Avenue Bridge, which connects the North and Northeast neighborhoods, re-opened to traffic Saturday, ending years of inconvenience for people who live and work near it.
Politicians and community leaders hailed the project as an iconic addition to the Twin Cities landscape. The old Lowry Bridge had become a safety hazard and needed to go, but the new one ended up costing three times more than originally planned.
At a ceremony marking the re-opening, State Senator Linda Higgins (DFL-Minneapolis) said, "It is a bridge of beauty. It is a bridge of art!"
The first non-official vehicle let across was a "party bus," full of cheering bridge lovers. It was a time to celebrate, though building this bridge was anything BUT a party. Explained Paul Backer, the senior project engineer on the project, "Some of the frame work of the bridge weighs one million pounds in the center and had to be lifted by wire strands."
The bridge features LED lights, an anti-icing system, and a sand filter that collects and cleans run-off from the bridge deck before it enters the river. The bridge spans 1600 feet and will carry an estimated 16,000 cars across the Mississippi River every single day.
Proclaimed Mark Stenglein, the president of the Downtown Council and a former Hennepin County Commissioner, "If the old one stood for 100 years, this one will be here for a thousand years!"
The old Lowry, built in 1905, was in serious disrepair. State Representative Diane Loeffler (DFL Minneapolis) said, "After the 35W Bridge went down we stepped up as a state and sent out bridge inspectors across our beautiful state to find bridges that might be at risk."
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar added, "One of the things we found out about this bridge is that it had some structural problems."
In 2007, the projected cost to build the bridge was $36 million. In the end though, the price soared to $104 million. Hennepin County taxpayers are responsible for more than $60 million of the total.
Resident Helen Berger said, "Yes, it escalated. But that's progress, I guess. After two years of going all around it, it's just nice to cross it."
And Bob Marget, the owner of River Liquor Store owner, said, "Time will tell if its worth it." Sitting at the foot of the bridge on the northeast side, River Liquor lost business during construction and Marget wonders if they'll ever get it all back. "We've been down about 35 percent in sales," he said. " It hurt a lot. Employees didn't get wage increases, we've had to lay people off. It's been tough but hopefully in the end here it'll be a great asset to northeast and the city."
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org