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If You Like Uni Watch, You’ll Love This: A Bridge Investigation

A guy named Tyler Vigen recently wondered why there’s a footbridge that goes over a certain stretch of Interstate 494 in Minneapolis. The bridge doesn’t seem to lead to or from anywhere notable, or to serve any other discernible purpose. Why is it there?

That simple question led Vigen on a deep, deep investigation that involved lots of archival research, calls to government officials, poring over old documents, and more. As I read his entertainingly obsessive article about all of this, it felt very familiar. I was reminded of various uni-related rabbit holes I’ve explored, not to mention my old Permanent Record project. In short, it felt like something I could have written myself — the tone, the methods, the obsessive need to solve the mystery.

So if you like Uni Watch, I think there’s a very good chance you’ll like this article. My highest recommendation! Check it out here.

(Huge thanks to Bryan O’Nolan, who thought I might be interested in this and was 100% correct!)

Comments (28)

    It’s Interstate 494 around the Twin Cities.

    495 goes around DC although you may think of it being the LIE too.

    Amazing bridge article! Tyler, I am loving it. I am not done reading yet, but just cheered out loud in the middle of study hall when you submitted the Freedom of Information Act request!! I’m going back to finish!

    Wasn’t this featured in a Ticker item over some weekend? I remember loving this article, but thought I was turned on to it by the Ticker.

    I had sent a link in as a “Grab Bag” item, and figured it was lost to the holiday weekend. Glad it got the Too Good for the Ticker treatment. I thought of Paul immediately!

    Actually it was included in the August 31st ticker, in the Grab Bag link

    and there were a bunch of comments about it in the ticker comment thread.

    Ah ha – I have this link open in a separate tab and was almost certain I had seen it on Uni Watch. It is a really great find. I’ll make sure to finish reading it during my lunch break.

    I read every bit of that, and as a urban/city/regional planning consultant, I LOVED it!!

    Great work, Tyler!!

    Queued up for the next dog walk.

    I don’t know what the conclusion is yet (obviously) but so far the bridge is reminding me of Thomasson architectural features (a term with baseball origins)


    Great article, but what stood out was that he ate at Taco Bell, and I kept hearing the bell sound in my head the whole time I was reading. Now I’m jonesin’ for Taco Bell.

    I was actually familiar with Tyler before reading this — I’ve used some of his spurious correlations in my classes to illustrate that correlation is not causation. He seems like the kind of detail freak who should either be a journalist or an academic (I’m quite familiar with both). Great article!

    Love this kind of stuff. A few years ago the City of Scottsdale built an underground pedestrian tunnel under a busy street. I believe this was primarily for kids crossing from either direction, going to and from a couple different schools. It turned out that they didn’t properly shore up a wall, using only something like a chain link fence material to hold back the hillside. Instead of properly putting in a wall, they just closed the tunnel for a couple of years. Just fenced it up. Now they are filling it in. I’ve got to think what they’re doing now is more costly than just putting in a proper wall.

    From the first photo, I thought, “There had to have been a school or a church,” given the date and the transitional residential nature of the area in the late 1950s. (I grew up not far from there in the 1980s.) And while that’s basically the conclusion, the investigation was so much more interesting than a reasonable assumption. Thanks for sharing this!

    Holy cow this was great. Especially the footnote about “well actually those stairs *are* designed for bikes to get walked across!”

    That was a fantastic read, especially with the bonus footnotes.

    But did I miss the part about the current status of the school? Seems like it’s gone since discussion of it was always in the far past.

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