At the bridge site, Flatiron-Manson crews are pouring concrete on the top third of Pier 2 northbound, the middle third of Pier 2 southbound, the bottom third of Pier 3 northbound, and the middle third of Pier 4 southbound. By the first week in March, all piers should be completed.
Left: A construction crew pours one of the first precast segments of the main bridge in the casting yard in mid-February. Photo courtesy of Figg Engineering.
Foundation shafts completed, shoring work begins
On Wednesday, February 13, the last of 40 foundation shafts for footings of the Second Street Bridge were drilled, and crews are fabricating and placing rebar cages into the shafts. They will pour concrete into the footings next week.
Crews also began shoring work for the 40-foot retaining walls that will be placed beside freeway entrance and exit ramps at University Avenue. The shoring operation includes excavating the area and placing steel supports in the ground and will require about a week to complete. Work on the walls will take place around the clock until early spring.
After concrete is poured, a worker smoothes the top of the roadway on the precast segment. Photo courtesy of Figg Engineering.
More public information available
Cranes will lift heavy steel components and will be operating during the day. Throughout the next few months, people will notice additional hammering noise as crews build temporary support structures on both sides of the Mississippi River.
At the MSP International Airport, a touch-screen kiosk on Concourse C has been installed, MnDOT included new information about Smart Bridge technology and cold weather construction on its website at www.mndot.gov, and two webcams are now showing the progress of the bridge construction.
House approves victims’ compensation bill
On February 18, a Minnesota House committee approved a bill to compensate victims of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse. The bill proposes to set up a catastrophe fund modeled after the September 11 victims’ compensation package that Congress passed in 2001.
The fund will remain in place for future catastrophes and could be refilled by the Legislature. It covers compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, burial costs, and other expenses not covered by other sources.
Claimants would agree not to sue the state and they would not be subject to a $300,000 state liability cap. The Democratic representative and author of the bill estimates that the fund would have between $30 million to $60 million to meet claims of bridge victims. The bill was referred to the House Public Safety and Civil Justice Committee.
A Democratic state senator intends to introduce a similar bill that would cap claims at $400,000. He and another House member also are working on an amendment to bar lawyers from recovering fees from the fund.
The House member was skeptical of a fund that covers some of the losses that insurance companies already cover when liability for the bridge collapse has not been determined. In addition, he added, who determines which tragedy qualifies for special compensation in the future and how many funds does the Legislature establish?
Auditor releases report on Minnesota’s road spending
The next day, Minnesota’s Legislative Auditor released a 105-page report on the state’s transportation system that says without new money, Minnesota won’t be able to do more than maintain current roadways, and borrowing money for transportation is not enough. Minnesota also had more miles of trunk highway in poor condition in 2007 than five years before when the Minnesota Department of Transportation had 19 percent fewer employees.
MnDOT had a policy of preservation first, according to the report, but more than half of the agency’s trunk highway spending was on expansion projects in the past five years and, when adjusted for inflation, tax revenues for trunk highways decreased since 2003. The result was MnDOT committed more money for road construction and less on operations, research and support.
Regarding MnDOT’s bridge work, the report said the agency was completing high-priority bridge repairs, but was falling behind on routine maintenance. The auditor urged legislators of both parties to reach a compromise on transportation funding and show some improvement in their rapport.