Press conference announces bridge opening
Construction workers continue to finish minor cleaning, concrete work, painting, and inspections on the bridge deck to make sure the bridge is ready to open.
At a press conference on Monday, September 15, Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced that the I-35W Bridge will open to traffic on Thursday, September 18. Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel, state legislators, Minneapolis city leaders, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, Minnesota’s congressional and Senate delegation, and the bridge design-build team stood at the south end of the bridge to celebrate completion of the bridge.
Commissioner Sorel said, "I am pleased to announce that motorists will cross the Mississippi River on I-35W more than three months earlier than planned." He also recognized project managers, construction crews, the Federal Highway Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard, Department of Natural Resources, Minneapolis, and Hennepin County for their cooperation.
Prior to opening the bridge to traffic, Mn/DOT officials, Flatiron-Manson Joint Venture, and FIGG Bridge designers walked through the project and inspected the bridge and its surroundings a final time.
Finishing touches precedes bridge and roads opening
|On Monday, September 15, a construction crew places concrete on the median of the bridge near the river marker.|
Contractors will continue final project work at the bridge piers and nearby roads in coming weeks but will not close the bridge to traffic.
At 5 a.m. on September 18, Minnesota state troopers lined up across the highway lanes at each end of the two spans. Traffic lined up behind the trooper vehicles and, once construction barricades were removed, troopers drove slowly across the bridge, passing in the middle and allowing other vehicles to follow behind them.
West River Parkway on the south side of the river and Second Street on the north side of the river opened to traffic concurrently with the bridge. Adjacent park areas and the new south side observation deck at the bridge piers opened to pedestrians.
"Hundreds of workers have worked around the clock since Nov. 1," Commissioner Sorel said. "Their hard work and attention to detail, as well as the project’s extensive safety and quality inspection programs, provide us confidence that this bridge will carry traffic safely for at least 100 years. Minnesota should be very proud of its workforce today, as well as the families of workers who have supported their efforts."
|Painters are close to completing painting the east side of the bridge for the bridge opening on Thursday, September 18.|
Construction began on October 15, 2007; September 15 marks 337 days of construction. The bridge collapsed on August 1, 2007, and the National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate the causes of collapse.
Flatiron and the Park Board dispute use of property
As crews worked 24 hours a day to finish the bridge this spring, Flatiron-Manson Joint Venture had a dispute with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
The Department of Transportation had given permission to Flatiron to use a site downstream from the bridge to store and assemble major bridge components, such as the pre-cast segments. The Park Board, which owns the property, had given the state a permit to use it, and when Flatiron moved its equipment and materials to the site, the Board ordered the company to vacate the property, known as Bohemian Flats.
In addition, the Board said Flatiron must obtain a separate permit and pay a fee of $153,340 to use the property. It then notified park police about what Flatiron had done. Flatiron agreed to pay what it said was an excessive fee.
Park Board officials said they were trying to use the fee to recoup losses they suffered when the bridge collapsed and interrupted business for two charter boats that pay the Park Board a percentage of their revenue.
Flatiron’s contract allowed it to charge the permit cost to the project, which means state and federal taxpayers funds paid the fee.