I-35W Bridge Update - Week 44

Week 44 by Ivy Chang | September 28, 2010

U.S. DOT provides more funding to relieve congestion

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and U.S. DOT secretary Mary Peters sealed the first grant presented to Minneapolis to relieve traffic congestion. Photo by David Gonzalez, MnDOT.

On June 12, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters came to Minneapolis to present a $133-million federal grant to fight traffic between downtown Minneap olis and the southern suburbs. Minnesota will kick in a $55-million matching grant to provide what Gov. Tim Pawlenty called "a basket of options" to avoid congestion.

The grant, first announced in August 2007, is one of 30 given to cities that applied for money to reduce congestion, and Minneapolis received the first grant. Peters did not say whether this grant was to help fight traffic as a result of the Interstate 35W Bridge collapse. Money will be used for the following, a partial list, to reduce congestion:

  • build new park-and-ride lots to provide 1,500 spaces in the north and south metro area along I-35W and Highway 77;
  • Increase dedicated bus lanes on Marquette Avenue in downtown Minneapolis;
  • Install a system to allow paid use of shoulders on northbound I-35W from south Minneapolis to downtown when roadway is congested;
  • add a high-occupancy toll lane in each direction of I-35W in south Minneapolis;
  • add more hybrid buses;
  • and convert HOV lanes to toll lanes on I-35W in each direction between Minneapolis and the southern suburb of Burnsville.

Minnesota’s Legislature is required to approve the $55 million within 90 days of the start of the legislative season. Most parts of the plan must be in place by September 2009 as a condition of the grant.

Another report suggested examining gusset plates

At a recent Minnesota legislative hearing, a report surfaced that showed consulting firm HNTB Corporation of Kansas City suggested examining gusset plates on the I-35W Bridge as a method to strengthen the aging structure. The company did the study at no cost as an attempt to get the contract for the bridge work, but MnDOT hired URS instead.

A series of memos and renderings showed how HNTB planned to strengthen the bridge, including adding supplemental and oversize gusset plates and supports. The document sat at MnDOT for more than a year before the agency awarded a contract.

The national bridge director at HNTB said the company was ready to do what MnDOT wanted to keep the bridge in shape, including more gusset plate support. In contrast, URS was hired and did not include the analysis of gusset plates in its work. HNTB submitted cost estimates that included an item for the analysis of "connections," a term that include gusset plates.

Paint test and deck pours

A ringer crane on a barge lifts a main span pre-cast segment to its position on Abutment 1. Photo by David Gonzalez, MnDOT.

Crews sandblasted the surface of Span 1 on the south side last week and painted a test panel to prepare for this week’s painting. Working from the interior to the exterior of the span, workers applied two coats of plaster and sprayed one coat of "Snowbound," the white color selected by citizens at last fall’s community meeting.

By June 16, workers installed 38 main span segments on the south side and six segments on the north side. The Second Street Bridge got its first deck pour and will receive two additional pours this week. On Span 3 on the north side, crews will complete the final deck pour.

Up to six segments a day will be placed on the main span working toward the middle until the last segment is in place expected in early July. The sides and bottoms of Span 4 are being poured to connect Span 3 with Abutment 5 on the north side. Additional paving is at 14th Avenue South.

While the casting yard is dismantled, the roadway underneath it continued to be demolished for grading and paving. The old pavement is first piled on site, then crushed and recycled for use on the new roadway. Crews are also grading and preparing for paving Second Street and the entrance/exit ramps at University Avenue. Next to these ramps, Carl Bolander & Sons, a subcontractor, is building cast-in-place retaining walls.