The illuminated Lowry Avenue Bridge opened in 2012 and is already an urban icon in Minneapolis. As a basket-handle arched bridge, its design is relatively rare in the U.S. Its two arches tilt toward each other and meet high over the center of the bridge, rising nearly 200 feet above the water.
In the Lowry Avenue Bridge, these arches rise up from the river level, rather than starting at the level of the deck as in traditional arch designs. It’s a beautiful design, and its grand arches make it strong.
Which is good.
The old Lowry Avenue Bridge had been built in 1905 (replacing an 1887-era bridge), even before folks were driving the Model T. It was a steel, tied-arch bridge, featuring five truss spans which were replaced with stronger trusses during a major renovation in 1958. The trusses were rebuilt on the original piers but raised 20 ft. to allow navigation on the Mississippi River.
In 2004, while the bridge was closed for painting, engineers found that one of the piers had shifted 11 inches. New bearings were manufactured and installed, but in 2008 these bearings had reached their limit and the bridge was closed due to safety concerns. It was rated as “structurally deficient” and “fracture critical,” meaning that if one of its support members fails, the whole bridge could collapse.
It had been expected that the bridge would not need to be replaced until the mid 2010s, but plans were made rebuild it ahead of schedule. And the design is nothing short of marvelous. There are several signature basket handle arch bridges in Asia, notably in Japan, but there are no other such bridges in Minnesota or anywhere along the Mississippi River.
What makes the Lowry Avenue Bridge even more special is the color-changing LED lighting system that can change its colors along with the seasons and to celebrate events and holidays.
Basket-Handle Tied Arch
T.Y. Lin, International
Four Lanes of Lowry Avenue
The Lowry Avenue Bridge is a design that some say could last 500 years.