Last week, I was in Minneapolis and had the opportunity to take a tour of the new I-35W bridge under construction. It’s come a long way in a short time, and the people of Minnesota should be very proud of the hard work that has gone into it.
Since the tragedy that took 13 lives on August 1, 2007, Secretary Peters and I have remained focused on providing the support Minneapolis needs to rebuild the state’s busiest bridge. From fully funding the clean-up and rebuild, to providing the technical support and guidance that MnDOT needs, the U.S. DOT is only too happy to help rebuild this vital connection.
Upon arriving at the site, I received an operations and safety briefing. Later, I climbed inside one of the bridge’s girders. Walking through the box girder reminded me that most people look up at these structures and assume they are solid concrete. Moments later, we climbed onto the deck of the nearly completed bridge. It was an incredible view, and one few of us thought would be possible in so short a time. Construction only began nine months ago – most projects of this size take far longer to get to this point. The effort expended in this bridge is nothing short of heroic.
Thanks to the bridge engineers, riggers, iron workers and welders, as well as quality assurance personnel from MnDOT and FHWA, the replacement bridge is coming together very efficiently, very nicely and – best of all – very safely. As a non-engineer, I was struck by the time and effort that go into ensuring that all of the calculations are exact. It is mind- boggling to realize projects of this scale, with concrete pilings and other elements weighing tons, often hinge on millimeters.
It was a dramatic sight to see the volume of work not only high above the river but also the activity in the river. Prefabricated bridge elements were arriving on the barge while cranes were lifting equipment and supplies to the workers on top. On the whole, it was a symphony of engineering skill.
We will never forget the tragedy that claimed the 13 lives last August but when it opens to traffic later this year – ahead of schedule, by all accounts – the I-35W Bridge will again be a crown jewel for the people of Minnesota.
-Deputy Secretary Barrett