Long Meadow Bridge
|Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Historic Cedar Avenue Minnesota River Crossing
Bloomington, MN to Eagan, MN
|• Structure ID:
|River Mile 7.3.
|• River Elevation:
|Former Cedar Avenue.
|• Daily Traffic Count:
|0 (Closed To Traffic).
|• Bridge Type:
|Steel Truss Through Deck.
|21 Feet, 2 Lanes.
|• Navigation Channel Width:
|• Height Above Water:
|• Date Built:
The Long Meadow Bridge is part of what is known today as the Old Cedar
Avenue Bridge. This bridge consisted of two sections. The northern
section over Long Meadow Creek consists of a 5 section through-truss
steel bridge. The southern section was a swing span that crossed the
main river navigation channel of the Minnesota River. The swing span
was removed shortly after the new Cedar Avenue Bridges opened in 1979.
The river crossing opened in 1891, so the 1920 section is actually a
replacement for an earlier span.
The Long Meadow Bridge still had value in that it offered a bridge to
a large island in the middle of the river flats. This bridge was given
to the City of Bloomington by the State of Minnesota in 1981, and was
still open to automobile traffic as late as 1993. It remained open to
pedestrian and bicycle traffic after it was closed to vehicle traffic.
In the early 2000s, the bridge deck was declared to be unsafe. A local
bicycle club passed the hat for donations, and purchased 60 sheets of
plywood to lay down a new deck. The bridge was deemed unsafe again in
2002, and had to be barricaded at each end.
Bicycle traffic was able to use the 5 span section to cross over to
the island in the river, then cross the main channel using a narrow
bridge that is suspended under the east span of the new bridge. When
the Long Meadow Bridge was closed in 2002, it was no longer possible
to cross the Minnesota River by bicycle at any location between the
airport and Shakopee.
There is a lot of interest in rebuilding the bridge over the secondary
channel. For bicycles, the next nearest crossing leading to the south
and east parts of the metro area is a 15 mile detour. The existing
bridge is covered with lead paint, so it would have to be wrapped in
plastic before being removed. The structure is so weak that you can
put your fingers through the beams in places, so the spans would have
to be reinforced before moving them to keep them from falling apart
and dropping into the river. The cost to remove the bridge is estimated
at $1-million. A new bicycle bridge might cost a million or two, while
an automobile bridge could cost upwards of $5-million.
Update—the 2008 state budget bill has a line item allocating money for
removal of the Long Meadow bridge. The line item is written such that any
money left over from the removal project may be used to build a new regional
trail bridge at the same location.
Update—the city council in Bloomington has discussed the replacement
for the Long Meadow Bridge several times. While several grants are available
to fund the bridge replacement, each grant has strings attached. It appears
that the amount of money it would cost to prepare the grant applications
and do the studies required by each grant would exceed the amount of money
that these grants would provide.
Update—a preservation group is reported to be working to prepare an
application to have the Long Meadow Bridge recognized as a historic structure.
If that bid is successful, that means that the existing bridge would need to
be restored rather than being replaced. The cost of such a project could be
$10-million or more, which far exceeds the funding that is available. As
a result, the project remains stalled.
The photo above is the north end of the Long Meadow Bridge, as seen from
Old Cedar Avenue, the road that once crossed Long Meadow Lake and the
Minnesota River at this location. Compared to photos below from previous
years, the greenery is really starting to encroach on the old roadway.
The photo above is a view looking south down the length of the bridge deck on
a late autumn afternoon. The photo below is a closer view looking south down
the center of the bridge deck on a bright summer morning. Not only is there
a lot more color in the center, but the greenery grows right down the edges
of the bridge deck.
These two photos are views of Old Cedar Avenue south of the Long Meadow Bridge
where the road crosses the island in the middle of the Minnesota River. The
photo above is looking northbound, while the photo below is looking south
towards the main spans of the new Cedar Avenue Bridge. Fallen trees overhang
the roadway in several spots.
These two photos are looking north from the south end of the Long Meadow
Bridge. The photo above is a view of the bridge portal, while the photo
below is looking down the length of the bridge deck. The plywood in the
center of the deck was funded by local bicycle groups as an attempt to
extend the life of the bridge.
A section of bridge deck has been removed at each end of the bridge. Here,
we see the missing section at the south end of the structure. In addition,
chain link fence blocks the entrance to the bridge. Steel cables have been
threaded through the fence to prevent vandals from removing the barrier. The
photo below is a view looking across the deck. This is the first view that
shows the deterioration of the bridge beams.
These two photos are views from under the south end of the Long Meadow Bridge.
The photo above is looking north towards the first bridge pier. The poles
are the remains of the 1890 bridge structure. The photo below is a view
looking south at the bridge abutment.
These two photos are views of bridge beams at the south end of the structure.
The photo above is the connection between girders and a stringer at the
abutment. Note that you can see daylight through holes at several
spots on this beam, and that the stringer is rotted through on the right
side of the photo. The photo below shows a beam that is almost completely
These two photos are views of the bridge bearings at the south end of the
structure. The photo above is the southeast bridge bearing, while the photo
below is the southwest bridge bearing. Note that the bridge structure is
pushed fully back up against the concrete abutment. This is most likely
caused by the bridge sagging due to a weakened structure. The pressure
is causing the concrete to crack. That suggests that this span is at risk
of collapsing under its own weight.
The photo above is the southwest corner of the structure. Note that the
beam in the foreground is riveted to a gusset plate. Riveted construction
was common prior to World War II. The photo below is a view of the west
side of the structure looking north towards Bloomington.
These two photos are views of Old Cedar Avenue on the north end of the Long
Meadow Bridge. The photo below is looking south towards the bridge, while
the photo above is looking north towards the river bluff. The pavement island
likely supported a toll booth canopy.
These signs near the north end of the bridge suggest that the structure is
closed to everyone, and suggests that people should stay off of the bridge.
Given the deterioration that we see in these photos, that is probably a
good idea if you are concerned about your personal safety.
These two photos show more signs at the north end of the bridge (above) and
attached to the bridge truss structure (below). There are also K-blocks
blocking the approach to the bridge. It is apparent that people are
discouraged from using this bridge.
These two photos are views looking southeast towards the west face of the
Long Meadow Bridge. There are a total of 5 truss spans supported by 4 main
bridge piers. Due to the brush and swamp grass, it is difficult to get a
photo of the side of the bridge.
These two photos are views looking south down the length of the bridge deck.
Note that there are a few people at the far end of the bridge deck in the
photo above. These people are more than half way across the bridge in the
photo below. This is not a very bright thing to do. First, the bridge is
often patrolled by police, and they do ticket trespassers. Second, the
structure is in very poor condition. Third, it is dangerous to attempt to
cross the sections at each end of the bridge where the deck has been removed.
These two photos are views of the west side of the bridge as seen from under
the north end of the structure. The photo below is looking directly along
the edge of the metal structure while the photo below is a little wider
angle that shows more of the truss structure.
These two photos are views from under the north end of the Long Meadow Bridge.
The photo above is looking south towards the first bridge pier. The photo
above is a view of the structure under the bridge deck. Note that part of
the cross brace is rotted off and has fallen from the structure. Also note
that you can see through the beams in several locations.
These two photo are views of the north end of the bridge. The photo above
shows the section of missing deck at the north end of the structure. The
photo below is the underside of the bridge looking at the bridge abutment.
These two photos are close views of two areas of the bridge structure. The
photo above is a bridge girder. The photo below is a beam made of two parallel
members that are cross-braced by small steel straps. Both photos show that
the metal has rusted completely through.
The photo above is the northeast corner of the bridge and bridge bearing as
seen from under the structure. The photo below is the northwest corner of
the bridge. Note that the abutment is cracked in several locations. This
is another sign that the bridge is near the point of collapse.
These two photos are from the spring flood of 2010. Both are views of the
Long Meadow Bridge taken by pointing the camera to the west out the
passenger side window while traveling southbound on highway MN-77 on the
Cedar Avenue bridge.
These two photos are additional views from the spring flood of 2010. The
photo above is the south spans of the Long Meadow bridge visible while looking
west from under one of the spans of the Cedar Avenue bridge. The photo below
is a view from Hog Ridge Trail, which runs along the bluffs on the north
side of the river. The photo is looking into the bright morning sun. The
water level is just under the bridge deck. In contrast, the water was
several feet over the bridge deck in the 2001 flood.
The photo from the flood (two photos above) suggests that maybe there is a way
to get a good photo of the east side of the structure from the edge of the
swamp just off of the Hog Ridge Trail. This area has a small opening in the
trees due to a sewer line that was installed a few years ago. It would have
to be a very early morning shot to make the sun angle work. I returned to
this site in the summer of 2010, only to find it very swampy and choked with
brush. I was able to make my way through the brush, then hold the camera
above my head to get up over the swamp grass. The photo above shows all five
truss spans, while the photo below is a close view of the second span from
the north end of the structure.
The Minnesota River experienced a rare autumn flood in late September and
early October of 2010 due to an exceptionally large rainfall across the
southeastern part of the state. These two photos are views looking through
the brush and trees towards the upstream west face of the Long Meadow Bridge
from the parking area at the end of Old Cedar Avenue in Bloomington. This
photo was taken at the crest of the flood, showing that the water came up
to the bottom of the truss spans. This is just slightly higher than the
spring flood, but well below the crest of the 2001 flood where the bridge
deck was submerged.
The photo above is a view looking west out of the passenger window of a car
traveling southbound on the Cedar Avenue Bridge. This photo was taken the
morning of the flood crest showing that there is no gap between the bridge
steel and the water. The photo below is looking south down the length of
the bride with a telephoto lens. The telephoto compresses the distance
making the bridge look much shorter than it really is. It gives us a
closer view of the fence on the far end, and we can see just a small piece
of the steel on the new Cedar Avenue bridge between the two trees in the
These two photos are views looking through the bridge deck where the
wood planks have been removed. We see the water right at the bottom of the
steel. I was able to comfortably stand under this section of the bridge
prior to the flood, which puts the water about a dozen feet above normal
river levels. It is amazing to contemplate how much water was involved
in this flood if you consider that the river flats are about a mile wide
at this location, the flood is about 12 feet above normal, and the impacted
area was over 30 miles long.
The Minnesota River flooded twice during the spring of 2011. These two photos
were taken in mid-May, between the two floods. The photo above is the west
side of the Long Meadow Bridge, seen from the parking lot at the north end
of the bridge site. The photo below is looking south along the east face
of the bridge from near the waterline.
I have long lamented that there was no view of the sides of the Long Meadow
Bridge. In late 2010, I discovered that there was a wildlife viewing
platform located just 1,000 feet upstream of the bridge spans. The photo
above is the boardwalk leading out to the platform, while the photo below
is the platform itself. While I would like to think that my lobbying paid
off, it turns out that this platform had been in place for at least a decade,
and I simply never noticed. This platform had been under several feet of
water only two weeks earlier, and it would again be submerged within two
weeks after my visit.
The photo above is the southern three spans of the Long Meadow Bridge as
seen from the trail leading out to the wildlife viewing platform. The
photo below is a closer view of one of the bridge piers as seen from the
boardwalk leading to the viewing platform. The aircraft is a Boeing 757
operated by Delta Airlines. It is less than two miles from touching down
on runway 35 at the Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Airport.
The photo above is a view looking northeast towards the upstream west face
of the Long Meadow Bridge, as seen from the wildlife viewing platform on a
very rare blue sky afternoon. The photo below is the northernmost truss
span. The new Cedar Avenue Bridge is visible behind the Long Meadow Bridge
These two photos are the second (above) and third (below) truss spans, counting
from north to south.
These two photos are the fourth (above) and fifth (below) truss spans, counting
from north to south.
The photo above is the second and third bridge spans. The photo below
includes the middle three bridge spans. This series of photos were all
taken from the wildlife observation deck located just upstream of the
Long Meadow Bridge.