Wabasha Street Bridge

The first bridge here opened in 1859; at that time, only two other bridges- the Hennepin Avenue Suspension Bridge (1855) in Minneapolis and a railroad bridge (1856) at Rock Island, IL- spanned the Mississippi. The original bridge was replaced by a steel span that stood until 1995, when it was knocked down to make way for a modern replacement. New York artist James Carpenter was selected to design the new bridge and produced a spectacular proposal for a cable-stay structure with a V-shaped central mast. His design touched off a heated debate. One critic likened it to “Madonna’s bra”; others rightly praised it as a dazzling work. In the end, cost concerns doomed the design, and the city settled for a concrete girder span with split roadways (best seen from below). The bridge’s many amenities include overlooks set behind weird, obtrusive metal cages, custom-designed railings and lights, pylons with flags, and an elaborate staircase that leads down to Raspberry Island.