Dawn Villella/AP

Minneapolis I-35W Bridge Reopens

September 18, 2008 05:29 PM
by Anne Szustek
Nearly 14 months after a raised section of Interstate 35W gave way near downtown Minneapolis, the bridge opened Thursday morning with nary a hitch.
Hundreds of drivers created a mile-long queue in I-35W’s northbound and southbound lanes around 5 a.m. CDT Thursday to become the inaugural drivers of the rebuilt bridge, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune reported.

Led by members of agencies that responded during the bridge’s Aug. 1, 2007, crash, which killed more than a dozen people and injured some 145 others, drivers and passengers snapped pictures of the reopening in the pre-dawn twilight and waved to one another.

Northeast Minneapolis resident Tom Parker was getting off of his nighttime shift at a check processing plant at Wells Fargo Bank in St. Paul around the time the bridge was set to open, so he took a different route on his way home. “A beautiful drive,” he was quoted as saying in the Star Tribune. “Man, that’s a nice bridge.”

According to the Associated Press, the Minn. Department of Transportation fast-tracked the I-35W bridge rebuilding project, which was valued at $245 million. Contractors had the bridge ready in 11 months—far ahead of the Christmas Eve deadline. It was also completed on budget, which translates into the maximum bonus for the contractors, estimated at some $27 million.

Designed by Florida firm Figg Engineering Group, the “smart bridge” has 323 data-collecting sensors measuring torsion, weight load and temperature changes—important in a climate that vacillates between sub-zero cold and triple-digit heat. Other sensors and cameras are to detect traffic flow and entry into unauthorized areas, as well as activate a de-icing system when weather conditions necessitate.

The new I-35 bridge, unlike its predecessor, is built with concrete, rather than steel. Its structure also is “redundant,” meaning that if one section of the bridge gives way, the other will not go down with it.

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