With pomp and circumstance, the new Lowry Avenue Bridge spanning the Mississippi River and connecting north and northeast Minneapolis opens Saturday, more than four years after the old one was closed.
High school bands, a ribbon-cutting, appearances by dignitaries, a water-ski show and a ceremonial parade highlight the festivities during a grand opening from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The $104 million bridge will open to traffic by early Saturday evening.
That can't happen soon enough for Bob Marget, owner of the River Liquor Store at 2435 NE. Marshall St., on the east side of the bridge. He said business dropped off 35 percent when the old landmark bridge that had stood for 103 years was closed in 2008 and torn down three years ago. A structural deficiency led to its implosion.
"We are enthused and excited about it," he said Friday, while looking at the new 1,575-foot-long structure replete with four lanes, sidewalks and bike lanes, LED lighting on its arches and rails and an anti-icing system. "It looks very nice. We look forward to seeing our customers and friends again."
Many people from north Minneapolis regularly shopped at the 66-year-old store before the bridge closed, but with the Camden and Plymouth Avenue bridges out of service for part of Lowry's closure, some just stayed away.
"If you only wanted a 12-pack, it wasn't worth it" to make the trek all the way around, he said.
On the west end of the bridge, the Burger King at Lowry and Washington Avenues N., is expecting an uptick in business. More than 15,000 vehicles used the bridge when it was open, and many passed by his fast-food restaurant. He is adding staff in anticipation of having more customers.
"We expect it to pick up a lot, and we're excited about that," he said.
Saturday's celebration will begin with high school marching bands from Edison and Patrick Henry. Dignitaries will speak at 11 a.m. followed by a ribbon cutting, a performance by the Twin Cities River Rats and an opportunity for those attending to walk across the sprawling structure. Vendors will sell food and beverages. Vehicles will be allowed on the bridge by "early evening," Hennepin County officials said.
Tom Hoover, owner of Hoover Wheel Alignment at 207 Lowry Av. N., said his business endured four years of lost revenue stemming from the closure. With more traffic in the area, "this might enhance it," said Hoover, whose father established the repair shop in 1965. "If they are driving by and their car is shaking, they might stop in."
With the bridge's opening, Metro Transit Route 32 will once again cross the Mississippi River on Lowry Avenue. Route 32, which runs from Robbinsdale to Rosedale, will return to its normal route Monday, said John Siqveland, a Metro Transit spokesman.
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768 • Twitter: @timstrib