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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
MN State Highway 197
Mississippi River Highway Crossing
Bemidji, MN

MN State Highway 197

Northbound Span
• Structure ID: NBI 04022
• Highway: MN Highway 197 (NB), Paul Bunyan Drive SW
• Daily Traffic Count: 11,200 (2004)
• Bridge Length: 198 Feet
Southbound Span
• Structure ID: NBI 04024
• Highway: MN Highway 197 (SB), Paul Bunyan Drive SW
• Daily Traffic Count: 11,200 (2004)
• Bridge Length: 199 Feet
Statistics Common To Both Spans
• Location: River Mile 1284.1
• River Elevation: 1,339 Feet
• County: Beltrami
• Bridge Type: Concrete Girder
• Bridge Width: 31 Feet Per Span, 2 Lanes Each Span
• Height Above Water: 12 Feet (Estimated)
• Date Built: Opened October 28, 2002
The MN-197 Bridge in Bemidji is the major Mississippi River crossing in that area of the state. It sees far more traffic than any other river crossing in the area, even more than the 4-lane US-2/US-71 Bemidji bypass. The bridge itself is a fairly standard modern prestressed concrete girder bridge, but it is dressed up to be a signature bridge. Functional features include 4 wide lanes with barriers between opposing lanes, and a wide bicycle and pedestrian path on each side that is also barrier separated from vehicle traffic. Decorative features are highlighted by the towers. They serve to make this look like an old style draw bridge. The rock facade really sells that feature. The decorations on the towers are designed to remind one of the ornate gas lamp poles that once stood on the nearby Nymore bridge. The blue stained glass would be the lamp flame, which is lit up at night by both accent and interior lighting.

More and more bridges are being cut off from the public by placement of no parking signs or by active police patrols. That is not the case with the MN-197 bridge. There are walking paths on and under the bridge, steps on the sides and ends of the bridge, and a parking area along side the bridge. The river see a lot of canoe traffic in this area, and the bridge is designed to be just as inviting to the canoeist as it is to the vehicle driver, pedestrian, or biker. MN-DOT has had its ups and downs, but in this case, they really pulled off a wonderful job. They deserve all the kudos that a project like this is worth.

Both MN-DOT and the National Bridge Inventory track this as two separate parallel bridges.

MN State Highway 197
The photo above is the main span as seen from the north side of the bridge looking upstream. The Nymore bridge and the two railroad bridges that cross the river just upstream are visible in the background. The photo below is a view looking between the two parallel bridges. The photo at the top of the page is a profile view of the bridge from river level at the northeast corner of the bridge.

MN State Highway 197
MN State Highway 197
The photo above is a view of the bridge from the northwest corner as seen from the parking lot of the shopping center located next to the bridge. The photo below is a view of the bridge deck as seen from the sidewalk near the northeast corner of the structure.

MN State Highway 197
MN State Highway 197
The photo above is looking southeast across the bridge deck from the highway level at the northeast corner of the structure. The photo below is a profile view of the bridge as seen from the nearby Nymore bridge.

MN State Highway 197

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