MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - The Minnesota Department of Transportation will
reopen Interstate 35W over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis at 5 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 18, according to Mn/DOT Commissioner Tom Sorel.
"I am pleased to announce that motorists will cross the Mississippi River on I-35W more than three months earlier than planned," said Sorel. "Building a high-quality and safe bridge in less than a year happened because of the dedication, professionalism and incredible determination of those who planned, designed and built it."
Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Commissioner Sorel made the announcement today at
a press conference on the south end of the new I-35W St. Anthony Falls Bridge. They were joined by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, members of the U.S. Congressional and Senate delegations, state legislators and local officials, as well as Mn/DOT leaders and members of the bridge design-build team.
Prior to the opening, officials from Mn/DOT, project contractors Flatiron-Manson Joint Venture and FIGG Bridge designers will do a final walk-through and inspection of the bridge and its surroundings. Contractors will continue final project work at off-site areas and the project office in the coming weeks, but no closure or traffic disruptions are expected with those activities. Flatiron-Manson was given notice to proceed on construction on Oct. 15, 2007. Sept. 15 marks 337 days of construction work on the project.
To open the bridge at 5 a.m. Thursday, Minnesota state troopers will line up across the highway lanes at each end of the northbound and southbound spans of the bridge, allowing public traffic to line up behind them. Once construction barricades are removed, troopers will drive slowly across the bridge, passing in the middle and allowing other vehicles to follow behind them and begin using the highway.
West River Parkway on the south side of the river, and Second Street on
the north side, will open to traffic concurrently with the new I-35W
Bridge. In addition, adjacent park areas and the new south side observation deck at the foot of the bridge piers will open to pedestrians. The bike tunnel on the south
side of the river will and the north side observation deck will open at some point in the future. There will be no public access to these facilities until then.
The I-35W Bridge was completed just more than 13 months after its predecessor collapsed Aug. 1, 2007. The cause of the collapse remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, which is expected to release a final report in November.
"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."
Other partners who helped make the project possible include the Federal Highway Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard, Department of Natural Resources, the city of Minneapolis, Hennepin County and many others.
Mn/DOT and the project team have focused on reopening the I-35W corridor
as quickly as is safely possible. The closure and resulting detours cost Minnesotans more than $400,000 a day in added travel and other expenses.
For more information about the I-35W St. Anthony Falls Bridge project, visit www.mndot.gov or call the project hotline at 612-236-6901 through Sept. 30, 2008.