The 24th Street pedestrian bridge, known for its picturesque views of the Minneapolis skyline, closed Friday, June 15 and will reopen in three years.
The bridge, built in 1972, had become a popular destination for and locals because of its view of the city, which was iconic enough to merit the creation of its own Facebook and Yelp pages.
Its closure is part of the larger Interstate 35W Downtown to Crosstown project that includes the reconstruction of two-and-a-half miles of freeway and 11 bridges.
Dave Aeikens, a public affairs representative for the Minnesota Department of Transportation in Hennepin County, said the bridge wasn’t being torn down solely for the convenience of the broader construction project. At nearly 50 years old, it is its own project.
“Eventually we would have needed to do it, but it works best within a larger project,” said Aeikens.
The new bridge will be handicap accessible, 20 feet lower and 4 feet wider. It won’t have the chain link fence on either side that has been captured by photographers for years.
“This is an upgrade. It’ll be a brand-new bridge that everyone can access easily, and it will look attractive and be very efficient and effective for everyone,” Aeikens said.
The I-35W project will also include improvements to the 40th street pedestrian bridge.
In the meantime, pedestrians are being re-routed from 24th Street via 4th avenue to cross the highway on Franklin Street.
During the last evening the bridge was open, it was filled with people, many with cameras set up to capture their last shots and others just taking in the view or snapping a photo on their phone.
Some, like Asha Lalla and Lia Huemoeller were regulars who came to take photos every few months. They met while taking photography classes through Minneapolis Community Education a few years ago.
“Lia’s from Maple Grove. She’s hardcore,” Lalla said.
Now both women teach their own community education classes and meet up in their free time to take shots. The night of June 14 they were shooting photos through crystal balls to invert the skyline image while blowing out the background.
While the bridge is under construction, the two said they would try to photograph from other nearby bridges, like Franklin.
Other visitors had only been once or twice, but wanted to come for a final farewell. Some were on their first visit.
Anne Janotta Erickson was walking through with her family. They live in Minneapolis, but had never been to the bridge.
“We heard it was coming down, and I’ve always wanted to come and see it, so we went on an adventure,” Erickson said. “I think it’s awesome that so many people are up here doing the same thing.”
Dymanh Chhoun grew up close to the bridge and wanted to show it to his daughter, Prena, before it went away.
“This is a time you want to show your daughter, take a picture of your daughter to say, ‘Hey, you’re lucky to be on this bridge before they took it down.’ That’s what I care about,” he said.
Chhoun picked Prena up and asked if she was happy to be there. She quietly said she was, before burying her face in her dad’s shoulder.
“I told her she was going to be on top of the vehicles and she was so happy to come see that,” he said.
Chhoun said he remembers this area being a nice neighborhood that he would explore with his friends and family, and they would ride their bikes across the bridge on the way there.
“This is what (the bridge) means to me: Seeing my life and seeing how old I am. I’m old now! I’m only 31, but I feel really old,” he said. “I’ve got to come back (to the new bridge) and see. And then maybe my boy can come here and take a picture.”
In response to public concern regarding a lower bridge changing the skyline view, Aeikens said, “Photographers can still use it to get shots of downtown. It will be a different angle, but it will still be a great view.”
Though most spectators were from Minneapolis, others, like Huemoeller, had made a special trip into the city to say goodbye.
“I’m not local, but this is sort of a great moment,” said photographer Larry Risser. “It’s a view that’s not going to be available.”
Lalla said, “It’s sad to see it go but I’m really excited to see the new view so we will be back in three years to check it out.”