Once the BNSF railroad passes over the south side of I-694 and expands into the vast Northtown Yard, you have but one option to cross it in Fridley City limits: the 44th Ave. Bridge.

I always had assumed that this bridge is in Columbia Heights, but it lies in Fridley proper. The notion sunk in when I saw a Fridley Police car staking out the bridge – presumably looking for speeders.

And speed they will. This bridge has a 2-lane road with extra wide lanes and extra wide shoulders. The speed limit is 30 MPH. Who are we kidding? No one is going to go 30 on it because it is engineered like a 45 MPH road:

44th-wide-lanes
Impatient driver, wanting to go faster than 30 MPH

The view from the top of the bridge is actually quite fascinating. You can see the “hump” at the Northtown Yard in action. A train backs up slowly to a hill (the hump) and one-by-one cars are uncoupled and roll down the other side, switching to various tracks so the non-unit train cars get rearranged to move on to their next destination:

Hump track in Fridley, MN
Photo courtesy of Jacob Nelson

Getting up to the top of this bridge is the laughable part. There’s no real entrance to the bridge walkway from the road on the east side. There’s just a narrow, weedy, sandy, decaying section of asphalt that says “trouble” more than “walk this way:”
44th-approach

The path is perilously narrow, squeezed down by the guard rail. Once you get to the bridge it turns to concrete and doesn’t get any wider. In fact it feels narrower since you’re now encased between a fence and a jersey barrier:
44th-vertigo

I think it would be impossible for two pedestrians to pass without brushing shoulders. Yet automobiles on this bridge are given a extra-wide berth for their whopping 30 MPH:
44th-road-width-vs-walkway

This bridge is technically a county road (Anoka County Road 2). I understand that the county (and state) sometimes operate with heavy hands. But regardless of who assumes ownership, someone should be ashamed of themselves.

The next time this bridge is resurfaced, the lanes should be narrowed to 10 or 11 feet, to fully reflect it’s 30 MPH speed limit, and the shoulders should be even narrower yet. Then the pedestrian area could be widened to provide actual space for non-motorized traffic to travel in both directions simultaneously without the certainty of a head-on collision which is guaranteed today.

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