Minneapolis' latest landmark was finally revealed Saturday with the opening of the new Lowry Avenue Bridge.
For more than 350 delighted residents, construction workers and politicians at the event, it was much more than a celebration of a new structure. It renews the connection between north and northeast Minneapolis, divided by the Mississippi River, that's been missing for four years. And it was a rare chance to honor a symbol for the next generation.
"This is truly a great day, a long time coming," said Mark Stenglein, a former Hennepin County commissioner. "If we liked the old bridge, we'll love this one. The old one stood 100 years. This one will stand a thousand years."
Residents and businesses hope the new bridge will bring shorter commutes for the 16,000 vehicles that will cross the bridge daily -- and a boost for business.
"It's a big deal for us because we go to northeast," said Kevin Gregory of north Minneapolis as his 2-year-old son sat perched on his shoulders to watch the marching bands. "It's good for both sides."
Onlookers snapped photos below the bridge as the Twin Cities River Rats offered a water-ski performance. They took photos above the bridge as three planes did a ceremonial flyover. And they shot photos of the bridge itself -- its towering white steel beams curved together 135 feet above the water. Blue LED lights were to go on Saturday night and, like the Interstate 35W bridge, this one will be lit in different colors for special occasions.
The original bridge, built in 1905, closed in 2008 due to a structural deficiency. Construction began in 2010 and the new bridge opened to cars Saturday afternoon.
"You know who else will go over it? Me on a bicycle," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who joined Rep. Keith Ellison and other elected officials. "We didn't just rebuild it, we rebuilt it right."
While a couple of people carried signs criticizing the $104 million cost, Ed and Becky Washington of north Minneapolis said they believe it was a worthy investment. "If you build it, you might as well build it for the next 100 years," Ed Washington said.
The bridge, which has sidewalks and bike lanes, is complete, other than minor landscaping, painting and work on an anti-icing system.
For two years, Greg Symanietz drove from St. Cloud daily as one of the bridge workers. On Saturday, his wife and three young children got to see the fruit of his labor.
"A bridge of this size is pretty rare," he said. "It's nice to see people enjoying it."
Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141; Twitter: @kellystrib