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I-35W Bridge Collapse - Week 49

A congressional investigation says Minnesota spends barely half of the money available under a federal highway program for substandard bridges, one of the lowest rates in the U.S. However, Minnesota Department of Transportation says the report is inaccurate on the state’s overall rate of investment in bridges because Minnesota’s investment is among the highest in the nation.

July 23, 2008

Investigators: Minnesota spent 51 percent of its allotted bridge funds

A congressional investigation says Minnesota spends barely half of the money available under a federal highway program for substandard bridges, one of the lowest rates in the U.S. However, Minnesota Department of Transportation says the report is inaccurate on the state’s overall rate of investment in bridges because Minnesota’s investment is among the highest in the nation.

Investigators found that Minnesota spent 51 percent of its allotted bridge program dollars for bridges in the last five years, a rate that is tied with Arizona for last place. The average for all states was 89 percent from 2003 to 2007.

Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-MN, is sponsoring legislation calling for a $1.9-billion national highway bridge reconstruction program which restricts a state’s ability to transfer program funds to other highway and infrastructure projects. He and MnDOT officials disagree on how best to direct federal dollars to maintain the generally safe, but deficient or obsolete, bridges in some way.

Minnesota passed on $63.5 million in federal aid for bridges

The Federal Highway Administration said Minnesota passed on more than $63.5 million in federal aid for substandard bridges since 2003 on top of another $50 million the state transferred to other programs.

State officials say they need flexibility to address various projects, such as bridge repair priorities, and to use that money for reconstruction and replacement when needed, and MnDOT should be allowed to make those decisions.

Under the new bill, states could transfer bridge program funds to other projects only if they have no structurally deficient bridges in the federal highway system.

Steady progress on both side of the river lead to final pour

On July 16, a construction crew poured the final 17 inches to connect the two sides of the bridge. Photo by Ivy Chang.

On July 10, crews lifted and installed the last two segments on the southbound span 46 days after beginning the installation of 120 pre-cast segments.

On the north side of the river, crews continue to pave the roadway and will complete pouring the unpaved areas from the Second Street Bridge to the north approach span this week.

Big Ben, the ringer crane that lifted pre-cast segments into place, was dismantled and shipped to its next destination. Crews continue to paint the bridge on its east and west sides and are removing the falsework under Span 3 on the north side.

As grading and other roadwork continued from the south approach to Washington Avenue in preparation for paving, roads and ramps closed temporarily for crews to install fences along the entrance and exit ramps and then pave the ramps.

Forms for the 17-inch gap between the two sides were constructed in place earlier this week, and crews began the cast-in-place pour, which connects the two bridges, on July 16 starting about 9:30 p.m.

Memorial service planned on August 1

Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak and Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty announced plans to remember the victims and honor the rescue workers of the bridge collapse.

On August 1, a prayer service will begin at 11 a.m. at the Basilica of St. Mary. At 4:30 p.m. a memorial ceremony will be held at Gold Medal Park along the Mississippi River, west of the new bridge, featuring a variety of artists. At 5:30 p.m., the public will march to the Stone Arch Bridge to mark a moment of silence at 6:05 p.m. The service will end with bells ringing throughout Minnesota.

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