They handled the housekeeping, conducted tours and offered spectators a place to stay. On the last day, they parked cars.
The finest-run hotels in the world have it much easier, though. They never have to battle the fiercest winter elements Mother Nature can spit out or have to balance massive concrete segments in midair, and rarely do they have to follow extremely tight deadlines—all before opening their doors to the public.
The construction of the I-35W St. Anthony Falls Bridge in Minneapolis always ran like a well-oiled operation and left a span that will give motorists five-star treatment for decades to come. It was an obvious choice for the No. 1 project on Roads & Bridges’ 2008 Top 10 Bridges list.
Those involved in the I-35W bridge project—perhaps the most well-coordinated public infrastructure project of our generation—most notably Flatiron-Manson, FIGG and the Minnesota DOT, handled every angle above and beyond the call of duty. It started with the cleanup of the disastrous collapse of the first I-35W span. The cleanup went smoothly and briskly. As soon as crews broke ground, it was quickly realized that the public could not keep its eyes off the progress, so weekly tours were planned and a makeshift observation deck—the 10th Avenue Bridge—was created. Thousands showed up for the launch of the first and final segments, despite the threat of severe weather.
But nothing could beat the feeling that came on Sept. 18, Day 339 of the contract, when Mn/DOT officials spent the pre-dawn hours of the day parking cars. Hundreds had gathered to be the first to cross the milestone.
“I was a little anxious trying to get everything set up,” Jon Chiglo, project manager for Mn/DOT, told Roads & Bridges. “As people started approaching the crossing of the bridge, horns were honking, flags were waving and people were cheering and yelling ‘thank you.’”
Moments never turned down for those involved with the I-35W bridge construction. The job was finished 98 days ahead of schedule, opening up the most critical artery in the state of Minnesota.
The list of engineering and construction accomplishments ran long:
The new bridge called for a reduced profile at the site, and designers had to work around several existing obstacles, including a historic wall and steam tunnels;
Pier 4 had to be moved 25 ft from where it stood in the original construction. The move required increasing structure depth and maintaining vertical clearance;
A thermal-control plan was put in place to handle the frigid temperatures during the winter months. This provided assurance that the concrete, including temperature-sensitive mass concrete in some areas, cured in the right conditions; and As many as six segments were placed a day.