Three years ago, when Alhasan Alajmi found out he’d be heading to the University of Minnesota from his home in Suwaiq, Oman, the hobbyist photographer Googled images of his new city.
The search turned up photos of the Minneapolis skyline, many of which he later learned were taken from the 24th Street pedestrian bridge over Interstate 35W.
Now only a handful of days remain to frame a similar photo, through holes that rogue photographers have cut into the bridge’s chain-link fence.
The footbridge is set to come down June 15 as part of the $239 million reconstruction of I-35W between 43rd Street and downtown Minneapolis. A replacement bridge, which won’t be completed until the project wraps up in 2021, will sit 20 feet lower, creating a different view.
The new bridge will be 4 feet wider and won’t have the stairs or the steep spiral ramp of the current one, which was built in 1972. Gone, too, will be the chain-link fencing.
“It’ll still make for a great shot,” said Scott McBride, district engineer with Minnesota Department of Transportation. “And it will be much more accessible to all.”
The 24th Street bridge is one of 11 that will be replaced as part of the freeway reconstruction project that stretches from downtown to Crosstown Hwy. 62 in Edina.
MnDOT invited people to enjoy some doughnuts Thursday morning as they snapped their final images from the bridge. The agency says the public is welcome to take photos from the bridge any time through June 14 and is asking people to share their photos, past and present, by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As photographers lined up on the bridge Thursday, drivers passing below honked and waved. The event offered a fun way to engage the community before the project’s real traffic headaches begin, said McBride.
“Usually we celebrate the opening of our projects, not the closing of something,” he said. “But so many people have stood here for this exact, iconic shot. We wanted to celebrate that.”
The 20-year-old Alajmi, vice president of a college photography club, had brought his camera to the bridge a handful of times before Thursday’s event. He said he’s enjoyed experimenting with long exposures to capture the light trails of vehicles moving to and from downtown.
Standing in the middle of the bridge Thursday morning, he scrolled through his social media account all the way back to the 2015 post that announced to his friends in Oman that he was heading across the globe to a city called Minneapolis.
The photo he posted then was of the downtown skyline lit by a dramatic sunset. It took him a year of exploring the city to locate the same vantage point.
“Then I finally found the bridge,” said Alajmi, now a sophomore studying chemical engineering at the U. “I’m really going to miss this place.”
Sonny Taylor, 75, echoed the sentiment. Thursday marked his first time on the bridge after four decades in Minneapolis and 15 years as a photographer.
“I just never made it over here,” Taylor said as he put his camera back into its bag. He noted the cloudy sky and the dull, gray morning light and figured he’d come back in the evening for a better shot. “I’ll take any opportunity I can get for a good picture,” he said.
“And this,” he paused, gesturing at the view, “is a real good picture.”