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Vanishing view: In last days of Minneapolis bridge, photographers flock to get final skyline shots

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24th Street pedestrian bridge
Traffic moves on Interstate 35W with the skyline of downtown Minneapolis in the distance in a view from the 24th Street pedestrian bridge at dusk on Saturday. The bridge will close this week, with a replacement slated to open in 2021.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

They gathered before dusk, claiming the choice spots.

Below them, cars and trucks barreling north and south on Interstate 35W. In front of them, a spectacular view of the Minneapolis skyline — a view that, after this week, won't ever be quite the same.

24th Street pedestrian bridge
A view of Interstate 35W and downtown Minneapolis through the chain link fencing on the 24th Street pedestrian bridge on Saturday.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

Photographers have been making pilgrimages in the final days of the 24th Street pedestrian bridge across the freeway. The span, which dates to the early 1970s, will close Friday for removal as part of the massive I-35W reconstruction project. While the bridge will be replaced, the new span will be lower — meaning the view will be different.

The bridge is a link for pedestrians and bicyclists between the Phillips and Whittier neighborhoods. And it also has provided a popular vantage point for photographers, thanks to its clear, elevated view of the downtown Minneapolis skyscrapers looming in the distance, above the traffic on the freeway.

Whether it's shots of the buildings in the soft light of dawn or dusk, or nighttime long-exposure photos combining the glow of headlights and the twinkling lights of downtown — pictures taken from the 24th Street bridge are familiar sights on Instagram and other photo-sharing sites and apps.

24th Street pedestrian bridge
Photographers gather on the 24th Street pedestrian bridge in Minneapolis at dusk on Saturday.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

Holes that have been cut in the chain-link fencing over the years provide room for camera lenses to take in the scene. 

On Saturday, a couple dozen people gathered over the course of a couple hours as sunlight gave way to twilight, with early arrivals setting up their tripods in front of the gaps in the fencing that offered the best views. The assemblage of photographers was visible to southbound traffic on I-35W — with a number of drivers blaring their horns in acknowledgment.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is encouraging photographers and others to enjoy the view before the bridge closes. In fact, MnDOT hosted a special event at the bridge last week, complete with donuts.

24th Street pedestrian bridge
The view north from the 24th Street pedestrian bridge in Minneapolis at sunset on Saturday.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

MnDOT reported that removal work will start Friday, with the new bridge not slated to be open until 2021. Until then, pedestrians and bicyclists will be detoured to the Franklin Avenue bridge two blocks north.

The new bridge will sit 20 feet lower than the one it's replacing, altering the view of the freeway and Minneapolis skyline. The Star Tribune reported that while the new bridge won't provide the same elevated perspective, it will be wider, with no chain-link fencing to block the view.

MnDOT is inviting photographers to share their photos from the 24th Street bridge, past and present — you can email them to info@35w94.com — to be included in the bridge opening celebration in three years.

The closure and replacement is part of MnDOT's $239 million "35W@94: Downtown to Crosstown" project that started last year. It covers I-35W from 15th Street and 43rd Street, and includes an upgrade of the freeway, several bridge replacements and improved infrastructure for public transit.