MINNEAPOLIS - A bridge connecting north and northeast Minneapolis is back in business. The Lowry Avenue Bridge opened to traffic on Saturday afternoon.
More than 350 people celebrated the bridge's grand opening along the Mississippi river, with a celebration above, below and on the surface of the bridge.
A trio of 1940's era aircraft, the T6 Thunder Team did a flyover. The Twin Cities River Rats water-skied under the bridge. And marching bands from Patrick Henry and Edison High Schools played on the bridge to celebrate the big day. Hennepin County officials and local politicians held the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Four years ago, Hennepin County shut down the old "Lowry" after discovering its support piers were shifting. Three years ago, the bridge was imploded.
Mark Stenglein, a former Hennepin County commissioner, and northeast Minneapolis resident, played a big role in helping get the new bridge built. At the celebration Saturday he said while the old bridge stood for 100 years, the new one will stand for a thousand.
Stenglein said, "It's wonderful. Between north and northeast Minneapolis this is a vital link for commerce, for the convenience of the residents and for public safety. There's a fire department, Minneapolis fire department has a fire station on the north side. This is a key link to serve both sides of the river."
The $104 million dollar bridge replaces a much different bridge, built in 1905 when cars were still brand new. Its surface was a noisy metal grate.
Stenglein's daughter, Eleanor Stenglein remembers driving over it and said, "I always thought the bridge was singing when you drove over it so I called it the singing bridge."
It's been a long time since that day, so longtime residents are glad to have their connection back.
Myrtle Blaine has lived near the bridge in Minneapolis for more than 50 years. She said once again, it's "convenient to get over here because all of my folks live over here north east and I live over north."
Eleanor Stenglein said she'll call it the dancing bridge now.
Many are very happy the bridge is back.
Jim Holmquist, who works for Minneapolis Parks and Recreation, is happy he can use the bridge once again while he drives around for his job. He said, "I think it's a beautiful bridge, yeah."
Dan Jaros, who owns Tony Jaros' Bar on the south end of the bridge, said he lost 30% of his business while there was no bridge. He's looking forward to getting that business back.
The new bridge has an anti-icing system and it's stronger.
Mark Stenglein said, "Everybody looks at it and says, 'Oh, it's such a fancy bridge.' But you know the arch also serves as a support so you only have two piers in the water the old one had five. And this is a real, kind of a hard-running part of the river, and that's what happened to the old bridge. It got under-currented. This one, it's not going to happen. There's only two piers in the water the arch supports the bridge."
The bridge is also equipped with an LED lighting system, so you won't be able to miss it at night. The county will be able to change the bridge's colors with the seasons.
Stenglein said, "So in a Vikings game it could be purple and on Saint Patrick's Day it could be green. But the whole thing, to light it up, is very efficient because it's led lights. It's about the equivalent of a couple of 100 watt light bulbs to light the whole thing."
The bridge was opened to traffic around 4:00 Saturday afternoon.
When the sun went down, it was to be lit up in blue.
So it appears the new Lowry Avenue bridge will have a personality all its own.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)