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Continued: As digging starts, more funding on the way

  • Article by: KEVIN DIAZ and PATRICIA LOPEZ , Star Tribune
  • Last update: November 1, 2007 - 11:35 PM

Without that authority, MnDOT officials said they might have to postpone construction on a slew of projects across the state, including the Wakota bridge.

McClung said Pawlenty now plans to go back to legislative leaders this month to seek spending authority for the emergency funds.

Senate Transportation Chairman Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, said Pawlenty now will get that authority.

"We've got the cash now," Murphy said. "That was always our concern -- giving the governor authority to spend cash we didn't have."

The emergency funding will make possible bridge reconstruction without delays of other projects, Murphy said, but it also removes any pressure for a special session that might have yielded a broader transportation bill.

Still, bad blood over the bridge funding is likely to remain. House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, praised the emergency funding but added that "cash-flow issues and project delays continue to plague MnDOT."

40 workers begin rebuilding

On the east bank of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, bridge workers were well out of earshot of the political din. In fact, the noise of a 9-foot-wide auger boring into the earth drowned out even the sounds of the rushing river just yards away.

On a day considered to mark the official start of construction, the auger was beginning to create a 112-foot test shaft that will be filled with reinforcing rods, then concrete. Engineers will then perform pressure tests on the shaft before digging the actual shafts that will support the bridge's main footings and piers.

As the auger was being hoisted in and out of the hole by a crane, steelworkers nearby were assembling 50-foot-long cylindrical cages out of rebar. About 40 workers in all were on the site Thursday, the project's managers said.

Disputes over funding and the cause of the collapse were having little affect at ground level. "The main surprise we've had has been how cooperative everyone has been here in Minnesota," said Peter Sanderson, the project manager for Flatiron Constructors.

Kevin Diaz • 202-408-2753 Patricia Lopez • 651-222-1288 Staff writer Jim Foti contributed to this report.

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