10 votes

BNSF - Missouri River High Bridge


Elevated Oblique View

Photo taken by Mike Jensen in Fall 2008


BH Photo #179972

Street Views 


BNSF's Bismarck Bridge Needs Replacement

BNSF video on proposed replacement of bridge

BNSF Railway


BNSF Railroad has announced plans to replace and demolish this bridge, in a plan expected to take several years for permits and construction.

Bridge named to National Trust for Historic Preservation's "11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2019".


Pennsylvania through truss bridge over Missouri River on BNSF Railway
Bismarck, Burleigh County, North Dakota, and Morton County, North Dakota
Open to traffic
Future prospects
Built 1905, reusing the piers from an 1882 bridge
- Ralph Modjeski of Bochnia, Poland (Chief Engineer)
- BNSF Railway (BNSF)
- Burlington Northern Railroad (BN)
- Northern Pacific Railway (NP)
Pennsylvania through truss
Length of largest span: 400.0 ft.
Total length: 1,525.0 ft.
Also called
Missouri River High Bridge
Bismarck-Mandan Rail Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+46.81801, -100.82682   (decimal degrees)
46°49'05" N, 100°49'37" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
14/360645/5186560 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory number
BH 44455 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • August 27, 2021: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • July 10, 2021: New photo from Tony Dillon
  • April 10, 2020: New video from Alexander D. Mitchell IV
  • May 30, 2019: Updated by Roger Deschner: Listed by National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • October 24, 2017: Updated by Alexander D. Mitchell IV: Updated replacement plans, added new media article
  • May 20, 2017: New photos from John Marvig
  • April 6, 2017: Updated by Luke: Doomed (Possibly)
  • March 17, 2017: New photo from Dana and Kay Klein
  • August 25, 2016: Updated by Christopher Finigan: Added categories "Pin-connected", "Riveted"
  • August 25, 2016: New photo from Ethan Akerly
  • December 4, 2014: Photo imported by Dave King
  • June 27, 2014: New Street View added by Ralph Demars
  • April 1, 2014: Updated by Nathan Holth: Added Ralph Modjeski as Chief Engineer and approximate span length.
  • March 27, 2014: Updated by Dave King: Added approach designs
  • March 12, 2012: Updated by Daniel Hopkins: Added category "Railroad"
  • March 10, 2012: New photo from Craig Philpott
  • September 28, 2010: New photo from Nathan Holth
  • March 14, 2010: Added by James Baughn

Related Bridges 



BNSF - Missouri River High Bridge
Posted March 7, 2022, by Alexander D. Mitchell IV (LNER4472 [at] verizon [dot] net)


BISMARCK, N.D. — In a new twist to a lengthy battle by a preservation group to save a BNSF Railway bridge over the Missouri River between Bismarck and Mandan, N.D. — which has thwarted railroad efforts to build a new structure — the Friends of the Rail Bridge is claiming the bridge in question actually belongs to the state of North Dakota, not the railroad.

The Bismarck Tribune reports the preservation group is basing its argument on the concept that Congress held in trust structures in navigable rivers, including the bridge built by the Northern Pacific in Dakota Territory in 1864, and that it transferred to North Dakota upon statehood in 1889 because Congress did not specifically grant ownership to the railroad.

State ownership would give the bridge protections under North Dakota law, requiring the State Historical Board to approve the structure’s demolition, Mark Zimmerman, the Friends board president, told the newspaper.

BNSF spokesman Amy McBeth said the railroad is preparing a response and called it “interesting” that the ownership question has only been raised after five years and 20 meetings.

BNSF has been seeking for years to replace the 1,525-foot-long bridge, which rises 70 feet above the river and features piers built by NP in 1882 and a superstructure dating to 1905. Because of its age, it currently requires a 25-mph speed restriction. But the efforts of the preservation group have complicated the permitting process for the new bridge [see “BNSF focuses on regulatory challenges …,” Trains News Wire, Jan. 8, 2019].

The railroad, U.S. Coast Guard — which is involved because the Missouri River is a navigable water way — and the Friends group reached an agreement in January 2021 that allowed BNSF replacement efforts to move forward without a decision on the final disposition of the current bridge. But the railroad asked permission to move ahead later that year, citing the preservation group’s failure to meet some terms of the earlier agreement [see “BNSF seeks to end Missouri River Bridge preservation efforts …,” News Wire, May 3, 2021].

The Friends group is now seeking to exit the January 2021 agreement, saying it placed an “undue burden” on the group to fund a proposed conversion of the existing bridge for pedestrian use.

BNSF’s McBeth says that if the existing bridge remains, it could increase costs of a new structure by $50 million and lead to a delay of several years to account for new design work and other changes.

BNSF - Missouri River High Bridge
Posted September 14, 2021, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)
BNSF - Missouri River High Bridge
Posted March 25, 2021, by Alexander D. Mitchell IV (LNER4472 [at] verizon [dot] net)


A group hoping to save the Bismarck-Mandan Rail Bridge can continue to search for public partners after meeting a key federally set deadline last week.

Friends of the Rail Bridge wants to stop BNSF Railway from demolishing the 138-year-old bridge spanning the Missouri River to make way for a new structure. The organizations signed an agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard in January outlining paths to either keeping or removing the bridge.

The railway has been going through the permitting process with the Coast Guard for a new bridge for more than three years. The Coast Guard decides on projects proposed along that part of the Missouri River to “ensure the structure does not unreasonably affect navigation,” according to a Federal Register notice.

A decision on the permit is scheduled for Jan. 22, 2022.

Friends of the Rail Bridge had until March 15 to establish a public-private partnership that would eventually take ownership of the historic bridge to prevent its demolition and covert it to a pedestrian bridge. The Burleigh County Commission voted on the last day to allow the group access to additional liability insurance through the North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund, which meets the partnership requirements outlined in the agreement, according to Brian Dunn, chief of the Coast Guard Office of Bridge Programs.

[more at link]

BNSF - Missouri River High Bridge
Posted January 28, 2021, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

I checked in with the Historic Bridge Foundation and have some further info. Everyone should sign the support letter, but that it is a little more complicated than the simple statement that a decision about the bridge's future will be made in 45 days. The Historic Bridge Foundation and the National Trust to name a couple organizations are consulting parties on this project and we will update you as the project moves forward. Sending FORB a letter of support or signing the petition will help them in their efforts to move the project forward.

BNSF - Missouri River High Bridge
Posted January 27, 2021, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)


I encourage everybody to sign this letter of support. This group has 45 days to find support for saving this bridge. Baby steps..

BNSF - Missouri River High Bridge
Posted February 25, 2020, by Clark Vance (cvance [at] dogmail [dot] com)
BNSF - Missouri River High Bridge
Posted February 24, 2020, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Not sure how this was never posted here, but today is the last day for comments to the US Coast Guard regarding this bridge:


BNSF - Missouri River High Bridge
Posted August 27, 2019, by Clark Vance (cvance [at] dogmail [dot] com)

Changing an alignment affects culverts, signal posts, etc, as well as non-railroad infrastructure such as sewer lines, power lines, etc. When drawing up plans for something like this every detail must be included. Each has a cost.

The cost of a new alignment is weighed against the cost of removing the old bridge plus any lost traffic while the line is closed.

BNSF - Missouri River High Bridge
Posted August 27, 2019, by Daniel

It would impact 500 structures? That sure doesn't sound reasonable to me.

Given the already tight radius on the East end, I don't see why the curve on the West end couldn't be tightened somewhat to place the new alignment somewhat North of the existing bridge, and then rejoin the existing track East of the bridge. I'd think that could be done without impacting *any* structures.

Or am I missing something?

BNSF - Missouri River High Bridge
Posted August 27, 2019, by Alexander D. Mitchell IV


Aug. 19, 2019

"BNSF is telling the people of Bismarck, N.D., that if they want this baby they are going to have to take care of it for the rest of its life.

A 136-year-old rail bridge that spans across the Missouri River is at the center of controversy. A group of citizens wants it restored and converted to a pedestrian/bike bridge, but BNSF would rather demolish the structure and put a new one in its place.

A study done by North Dakota State University landscape architecture professors says the converted bridge route can be done, but it will cost $6.9 million. However, BNSF is claiming other costs associated with the bridge preservation. The Class 1 says leaving the existing bridge where it is and building a new one would impact about 500 structures and cost another $8 million in mitigation measures. Then there is any upkeep moving forward. Friends of the Rail Bridge, a group in favor of keeping the old bridge, has no funds tied up for the project, but did use a $10,000 grant on the feasibility study.

A new rail bridge is still on the horizon, it is just a question of alignment. BNSF wants to demolish the 136-year-old and build a new rail bridge, which will require permits from the U.S. Coast Guard.

BNSF also says a pedestrian bridge so close to an active railroad bridge (30 ft) is cause for concern with the threat of derailments or debris falling from trains. The bridge also sits on shallow foundations and is non-redundant, meaning if one part of the bridge fails the entire span collapses.

BNSF claims it filed its concerns with the authors of the feasibility study, but those concerns were not addressed."

BNSF - Missouri River High Bridge
Posted May 30, 2019, by Roger Deschner (rogerdeschner [at] gmail [dot] com)

National Trust for Historic Preservation has named this bridge on its "11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2019". You can see the list, a photo of the bridge, and a link to a petition to save the bridge, at https://savingplaces.org/stories/11-most-endangered-historic...

This is a great honor for those working to preserve this landmark bridge, as they continue to fight to save it.

BNSF - Missouri River High Bridge
Posted December 5, 2017, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Some optimistic news regarding the future of this bridge:


A petition has been created to save the bridge:


Bismarck Railroad Bridge
Posted May 6, 2010, by Mike Jensen (mikejensen [at] hotmail [dot] com)

picture I took in the fall of 2008.