On August 1st of last year the I-35W freeway bridge over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis collapsed during rush hour, costing 13 people their lives and injuring another 145. Two of the folks that paddled with us that evening had crossed the bridge on their way to the launch site, minutes before it collapsed into the river. In what must be considered lightning speed for state government, a contract for the new bridge was awarded just six weeks after the disaster. Last night the VOR and I went out on the bikes to scout a good commuter bike route to get her to work and stopped to survey progress on the bridge.
The contract with Flatiron Construction calls for the bridge to be complete by December 24th. Merry Christmas I guess. A friend that’s a chef at one of the restaurants near the bridge reported that the construction workers who ate there said the bridge was well ahead of schedule and would likely be done by mid to late September. Now the St Paul paper has reported the same thing. There is a good chance the river will be spanned again by the 4th of July and, when all the approach work is completed the bridge could be open by mid September, which would earn Flatiron a 20 million dollar bonus. As a taxpayer, I’m fine with that. Flatiron didn’t have the lowest bid; I’ve always thought all that process gets you is the cheapest product. They did have a great design and, it would appear now, an excellent plan and work schedule to get the bridge back up and in service.
Anyone who has followed the weather knows it’s rained like hell in the Midwest the past week. Lanesboro and Grand Marais, MN, on opposite sides of the state, have had disastrous flooding and Lake Delton in Wisconsin had several expensive homes destroyed, the highway washed away, and the lake itself drained when a dam collapsed. Indiana has had similar flooding. The Mississippi is flowing pretty good at St Anthony Falls and the construction guys are still out there working on the bridge 24 hours straight. In the photos you’ll see the two spans working toward the center of the bridge. Also note the current in the river and the crane barge anchored in the middle. The river has been cleared of most of the debris also and in the one shot you can see a tug and a barge that has just locked through the No2 Minneapolis lock heading downriver.
The Flatiron guys are doing some amazing things on the river in conditions that could be described as difficult at best. I hope the bridge is open soon for the usual selfish commuter reasons but also to help those who had family lost or injured move on. A bridge is something we take for granted and this proved to a lot of people in this area that ain’t necessarily the case.