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KARE in the Air: Crossing the Hennepin Avenue Bridge

The current model, built in 1990, is actually the fourth bridge to cross the Mississippi River at Nicollet Island, connecting downtown with northeast Minneapolis.

MINNEAPOLIS — Thousands of drivers cross the Hennepin Avenue Bridge each day, but our new installment of  "KARE in the Air" provides a decidedly different vantage point. 

Officially dubbed the Father Louis Hennepin Bridge, the current span was constructed in 1990. Two 150-foot tall towers support the suspension of two separate bridge decks that are each 1,037 feet in total length. Historian Michael Rainville, Jr. says that makes it the shortest suspension bridge to carry highway traffic built in modern times.  

While they are built as two separate decks, MnDOT considers the Hennepin Avenue Bridge a single span. 

What you may not know is that the current bridge is the fourth to cross the Mississippi at Nicollet Island. The first, built in 1855 according to the Mill City Times, opened in 1855 and is considered by many to be the very first bridge to span the Mississippi River. 

Privately owned by local businessman Franklin Steele and the Mississippi Bridge Company, those that wanted to cross the bridge had to pay a toll. Pedestrians were required to cough up three cents, and if you were piloting a single-horse carriage it ran you a quarter.

In 1877 a second suspension bridge was built just to the north of the original, which was soon torn down.  

Historian Rainville writes that while the first two Hennepin Avenue Bridges were made of wood, a third that was started in 1888 was much larger and constructed from steel. It was a steel arched bridge, moving away from the familiar suspension design of its predecessors. 

The third bridge opened to the public in 1891, and lasted nearly 100 years. 

Watch more KARE in the Air:

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