For 15 months, Tory Kielas-Jensen had to leave her West 7th neighborhood and take a circuitous route onto the highway to visit her mother, who lives just across the Smith Avenue High Bridge in St. Paul.

On Sunday, as the community marked the reopening of the High Bridge, the mother and daughter celebrated their reunion.

“We had to drive [when it was closed] and I enjoy walking” across, said Kielas-Jensen before pausing to consider the weather. “Well, maybe not today.”

Dozens gathered Sunday afternoon on the south side of the High Bridge, which spans the Mississippi River, for a chilly ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate its reopening after more than a year of construction.

After listening to music and a series of speakers, everyone was invited to try out the new bridge and then walk to a warm gathering at the nearby Capital View Cafe.

“The High Bridge is an iconic symbol, for so long,” said MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle. “It was falling apart.”

Zelle noted the new bridge is about more than just cars: “It’s about pedestrians, it’s about the experience of being on the bridge,” he said.

The bridge, with its signature arches, is a key connection between downtown St. Paul and the city’s West Side.

MnDOT officials noted that construction finished ahead of schedule. The bridge was officially opened to motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians on Nov. 21.

Road resurfacing on Hwy. 149 near the bridge will continue through next spring.

 

Correction: A previous version said the rebuilt bridge has fewer lanes and sidewalks on both sides. To clarify, the rebuilt bridge has two lanes just as it had before the recent construction project -- though the lanes are narrower to slow traffic and provide more room for bicycles -- and it had sidewalks on both sides before the recent project, though they are now lined with a concrete berm.