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"MnDOT believes it would be less expensive to reinforce or rebuild the Washington Avenue bridge, or build a stand-alone LRT river crossing, than to add an LRT component to the I-35W bridge," Molnau and Bell wrote.
The design of the replacement bridge will be intentionally left vague to allow for flexibility for the builder, said Minneapolis Public Works Director Steve Kotke. Ultimately, the state will have five different designs from which to choose, he said.
Design experts said it's an opportunity to think big.
"Rather than just doing another old bridge, it might be nice to have something dramatic and exciting -- and of course the essence of safety," said architect Ralph Rapson.
Judith Martin, director of the urban studies program at the University of Minnesota, said anybody hoping for something grand and fancy should rein in their expectations. Federal highway bridges tend to be "extremely utilitarian" with more attention paid to load bearing ability than design. "Think about all the interstate bridges in the Twin Cities. Are any of them memorable?" she asked.
Competing contractors -- two local teams and three national contractors -- may propose a steel bridge design that is "just beams or it could be a steel box or a concrete box similar to the Wakota Bridge," between South St. Paul and St. Paul Park, Sahebjam said.
The chosen builders may not necessarily be the lowest bidders, Sahebjam said. "The goal is to do it as soon as we can."
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said the weekend rains are "hampering our efforts" with increased current. That has prompted a shift in the recovery strategy from a direct search for the remaining four missing victims to debris removal, which could make recovering victims easier.
The Associated Press and staff writers Bill McAuliffe, Terry Collins, Kevin Diaz and Maria Baca contributed to this report.