Bridges in Eden Prairie – including one built over 100 years ago – are in overall good shape, according to City of Eden Prairie and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) data.
City and state inspection data reviewed by EPLN show bridge structures, including short, narrow wooden ones, all the way up to six-lane freeway bridges carrying thousands of vehicles every day, fall into the good or very good category in inspection reports.
There are 89 bridges within Eden Prairie’s city limits. About 65 of those belong to the city, many of which are along walking and biking trails.
The State of Minnesota, Hennepin County and railroads own the rest. All of the bridges in the city have been inspected within the last four years, most of them in the last two years.
Tragedy brought inspections into focus
On Aug. 1, 2007, the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring many more as vehicles and their occupants plunged into the Mississippi River.
Since then, there has been much talk about how to improve the country’s infrastructure, including the repair or replacement of crumbling roads and bridges, as well as utility pipes buried underground.
Of the approximately 20,000 bridges in Minnesota, 874 were deemed to be in poor condition as of 2021, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). That’s an improvement over 2007, but much more needs to be done, according to experts.
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 bicyclists on nature trails. A few are pedestrian bridges crossing roadways. Those bridges and the remaining 30 that carry vehicle traffic are inspected at least once every two years, according to Eden Prairie City Engineer Rod Rue.
Many of those are park bridges that MnDOT doesn’t require inspections on, but the city inspects them on its own, Rue said.
MnDOT only inspects pedestrian structures that intersect a highway and that are at least 10 feet long, according to Joe Russella of the MnDOT bridge asset management unit. Nineteen of Eden Prairie’s pedestrian bridges are inspected and maintained by the city. Most of them cross Purgatory Creek as it winds through the city.
Rue said some bridges are probably not what some people would consider a bridge.
“Some of the creek crossings actually have a box culvert under them,” he said. A box culvert is a four-sided precast concrete box. If they are 10 or more feet in length, 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 those bridges are considered “adequate.”
Inspectors look at the road deck, railings, and bolts, he said. They are also looking for concrete cracking. “Some cracking is normal, some cracking is structural,” Rue said.
Two bridges are rated “functionally obsolete.” “When that happens, (MnDOT) hires a consultant to do a structural analysis on them,” Rue said.
One is on Wood Duck Trail crossing railroad tracks, and 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 on
Eden Prairie’s most famous bridge, the one-lane Graffiti Bridge that spanned Valley View Road just to the west of Bent Creek Golf Course, was best known not only for its actual graffiti, but that it was the namesake for Prince’s feature film of the same name.
Graffiti Bridge was built in 1913, serving the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway (M&StL) and was removed in 1991 to make way for a four-lane Valley View Road. It was replaced by a new bridge that connects the Minnesota River Bluffs Regional Trail.
Another bridge that used to carry local traffic across Indian Road in southwest Eden Prairie was removed years ago, Rue said.
Many of the city-owned bridges were built in the 1970s and 80s. Most are made of concrete or steel – or both.
The city is also home to two bridges built in the early 20th century.
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 beneath it. The bridge is narrow and has become the home of 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’ve told them they own the bridge, but they keep denying that,” he said.
Creek Knoll Bridge is barely distinguishable to a motorist unfamiliar with 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 noticeable features are the two concrete rails on either side of the road. Purgatory Creek passes underneath it in a tangle of trees, brush and marshland.
The bridge is on the city’s plan to be replaced in the next 10 years, Rue said. Even so, he said, “It’s still adequate structurally … but the abutments and wing walls are deteriorating,” he said.
A bridge on Willow Creek Road crossing Nine-Mile Creek is also expected to be replaced in 2023, Rue said.
And the new…
Long, curving bridges have been 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 – snakes through the city to its end station at the SWLRT station at Prairie Center Drive and Highway 212.
In the past two years, Eden Prairie has witnessed the most active bridge-building in decades, thanks to the construction of the light rail project.
Those bridges are mostly completed, but won’t see any action until at least 2027, as construction difficulties in Minneapolis have delayed the project.
One of the most unique projects currently underway is the Duck Lake Road bridge just north of Prairie View Elementary School. The bridge replaces a low-lying portion of Duck Lake Road that separates Duck Luck from a marsh area to the west and was a constant flood threat.
When the bridge is finished, those two bodies of water will become one beneath a concrete deck built on pilings.
The method of construction required is what makes it unique, Rue said. Because the bridge height is low, steel beams would have been underwater. “There are no beams. It’s a single (concrete) pour bridge,” Rue said. “So the whole bridge deck is the structure, the superstructure.”
Bolton & Menk inspector Brandon Mensing was on the site recently and said construction is proceeding well. The new bridge deck is in place, and builders at that time were awaiting delivery of the bridge railings that are being manufactured out-of-state.
The bridge will contain 250,000 pounds of rebar and 1,500 yards of concrete and should be completed by the end of September, Mensing said.
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