Eden Prairie’s bridges — including one built over 100 years ago — are in overall good condition, according to data from the City of Eden Prairie and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).
City and state inspection data reviewed by the EPLN shows that bridge structures, including short and narrow wooden bridges, to six-lane highway bridges carrying thousands of vehicles every day fall into the good or very good category in the inspection reports.
There are 89 bridges within the city limits of Eden Prairie. About 65 of these are owned by the city, many of which are along walking and cycling paths.
The state of Minnesota, Hennepin County and the railroads own the remainder. All of the city’s bridges have been inspected within the past four years, most within the past two years.
Tragedy put focus on inspections
On August 1, 2007, the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring many others as vehicles and their occupants plunged into the Mississippi River.
Since then, much has been said about how to improve the country’s infrastructure, including repairing or replacing crumbling roads and bridges, as well as utility lines buried underground.
Of Minnesota’s roughly 20,000 bridges, 874 were deemed to be in poor condition in 2021, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). That’s an improvement over 2007, but there’s still a long way to go, experts say.
Fortunately, none of them are in Eden Prairie.
About half of the bridges are the responsibility of the city and are used by pedestrians and cyclists on nature trails. A few are pedestrian bridges crossing the roads. These bridges and the 30 others that carry vehicles are inspected at least once every two years, according to Eden Prairie City engineer Rod Rue.
Many of them are park bridges that the MnDOT does not require inspections on, but the city inspects them itself, Rue said.
MnDOT only inspects pedestrian structures that intersect a freeway and are at least 10 feet long, according to Joe Russella of MnDOT’s Bridge Asset Management Unit. Nineteen of Eden Prairie’s pedestrian bridges are inspected and maintained by the city. Most of them cross Purgatory Creek which meanders through the city.
Rue said some bridges are probably not what some people would consider a bridge.
“Some of the stream crossings actually have a culvert underneath,” he said. A culvert is a precast concrete box with four sides. If they are 10 feet or more, they are considered a bridge.
Those bridges are inspected by an engineering firm hired by the city, Rue said. According to city inspection data, most of these bridges are considered “adequate”.
Inspectors are examining the road deck, guardrails and bolts, he said. They also look for cracks in the concrete. “Some cracks are normal, some cracks are structural,” Rue said.
Two bridges are classified as “functionally obsolete”. “When that happens, (MnDOT) hires a consultant to do structural analysis on them,” Rue said.
One is on Wood Duck Trail crossing railroad tracks, and the MnDOT’s published rating for the bridge is “good.” The other bridge is on City West Parkway, crosses a pedestrian walkway and is rated ‘satisfactory’.
Some are gone, some live
Eden Prairie’s most famous bridge, the one-lane Graffiti Bridge that spanned Valley View Road just west of the Bent Creek Golf Course, was best known not only for its actual graffiti, but that it was the namesake of the Prince feature film of the same name.
The Graffiti Bridge was built in 1913, serving the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad (M&StL) and was removed in 1991 to make way for a four-lane Valley View Road. It has been replaced with a new bridge that connects the Minnesota River Bluffs Regional Trail.
Another bridge that carried local traffic on Indian Road in southwest Eden Prairie was removed years ago, Rue said.
Many city-owned bridges were built in the 1970s and 1980s. Most are made of concrete or steel – or both.
The city is also home to two bridges built in the early 20th century.
The Indian Chief Road Bridge in north-central Eden Prairie, just south of Highway 62, was built in 1930 and carries TC&W rail traffic and allows traffic to move freely underneath. The bridge is narrow and has become home to a new version of Graffiti Bridge.
There is some disagreement as to who owns this bridge, Rue said. The city’s position is that the bridge belongs to the railroad. “We told them they owned the bridge, but they continue to deny that,” he said.
The Creek Knoll Bridge is barely recognizable to an unfamiliar motorist on this quiet street just north and east of the intersection of Pioneer Trail and Flying Cloud Drive. It was built in 1920 and its most notable features are the two concrete rails on either side of the road. Purgatory Creek passes below in a tangle of trees, brush, and marsh.
The bridge is on the city’s plan to be replaced within the next 10 years, Rue said. Even so, he said, “the structure is still adequate…but the abutments and wing walls are deteriorating,” he said.
A bridge on Willow Creek Road crossing Nine-Mile Creek is also scheduled for replacement in 2023, Rue said.
And the new…
Long, curved bridges were built over Shady Oak Road, Highway 212, Valley View Road and Prairie Center Drive as the SouthWest Light Rail Transit Green Line – now officially known as the Metro Green Line Extension – winds through the city to its terminal station at the SWLRT station at Prairie Center Drive and Highway 212.
Over the past two years, Eden Prairie has witnessed the most active bridge construction in decades, thanks to the construction of the light rail project.
Those bridges are mostly complete, but won’t see any action until at least 2027, as construction difficulties in Minneapolis delayed the project.
One of the more unique projects currently underway is the Duck Lake Road Bridge just north of Prairie View Elementary School. The bridge replaces a low section of Duck Lake Road that separates Duck Luck from a marshy area to the west and was a constant threat of flooding.
Once the bridge is completed, these two bodies of water will become one under a concrete deck built on piles.
The construction method required is what makes it unique, Rue said. Because the height of the bridge is low, the steel girders would have been under water. “There are no beams. It is a single poured (concrete) bridge,” Rue said. “So the whole deck of the bridge is the structure, the superstructure.”
Bolton & Menk inspector Brandon Mensing was on site recently and said construction was going well. The new bridge deck is in place and the builders at the time were awaiting delivery of the bridge guardrails which are fabricated out of state.
The bridge will contain 250,000 pounds of rebar and 1,500 yards of concrete and is expected to be completed by the end of September, Mensing said.
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