MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Stone Arch Bridge is among the most photographed and visited sites in the Twin Cities.

“This is the only arched bridge made of stone anywhere on the Mississippi,” said Minneapolis Councilmember Steve Fletcher.

The James J. Hill Stone Arch Bridge was originally built in 1883 for the Great Northern Railway. It is an architectural blend of massive stones and graceful arches — stretching some 2,100 feet to span the banks of the Mississippi River.

Today, the trains are long gone and the bridge serves only as a crossing for pedestrians.

“When they were doing the Super Bowl, what skyline did they show? They showed my city, and I’m very proud of it,” said Minneapolis resident Katie Simon-Dastych. “And this bridge is just iconic.”

(credit: CBS)

The Minnesota Department of Transportation maintains the bridge, and will not risk another bridge disaster. During the summer of 2017, inspectors found underwater stone piers in poor condition. The mortar between the stones appears to be deteriorating.

“The biggest problem is the mortar, that is wearing away,” said Minneapolis Park Board Commissioner Chris Meyer. “And when the mortar wears away, the stones start to fall off. And it’s when the stones start to crumble is when it gets really expensive.”

It does not qualify for state highway funding because it is only a pedestrian bridge. That is why MnDOT hoped to secure the needed $12.9 million in the legislature’s bi-annual state bonding bill.

But so far, the governor’s bonding request has been ignored, and has not included in any of the proposed bonding bills.

Opponents maintain that the bridge is largely a Minneapolis asset and should be repaired with Minneapolis dollars. Supporters of the bridge bristle at that suggestion, and say it is bigger than that.

“This bridge is the symbol of Minneapolis, the way the Statue of Liberty is the symbol of New York, or the Eiffel Tower is the symbol of Paris,” said local resident and bridge user Jeff Pert. “This is our version of that.”

If supporters of the funding request are to succeed, they will have to work quickly.

The legislative session ends Sunday night, and so far neither bonding bill being considered contains any money for the bridge.

Bill Hudson

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