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Continued: I-35W bridge is aging, seven years after collapse

  • Article by: PAT DOYLE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 27, 2014 - 8:08 AM

“Deck drains are starting to fill with debris,” inspectors wrote in 2012. “While there is no evidence of ponding, or drainage-related erosion, the deck drains should be flushed.” They expanded on their previous remarks about the two girders: “There are isolated areas of minor rust staining on the exterior of the box girders.”

The 2013 report includes pictures of rust, cracks and chipped pavement, and of a pipe that pulled apart under the deck. Styrbicki thinks the pipe may be a remnant of construction that’s no longer needed.

One element of the bridge got only a fair rating every year — its clearance. That’s because one end of the bridge was designed to be a couple of inches lower than normal over a Minneapolis street. The state didn’t want to increase costs by raising the bridge or lowering the street, and the bridge clearance “ended up being somewhat substandard,” Styrbicki said.

Bigger problems

The 35W bridge is supported by huge concrete box sections from which anti-icing chemicals are piped up into disks on the deck that spray them onto the pavement. The automated system, triggered by temperature and humidity sensors, is an alternative to spreading salt on the deck and is believed to enhance safety. MnDOT says the chemicals are not corrosive.

“We had some real issues with those … rather major,” Styrbicki said, adding that the disks weren’t installed properly and that the anti-icing fluid was “leaking down into the concrete box superstructure.”

The disks are provided by Boschung America, which provided similar systems for other Minnesota bridges. Justin Bruce, vice president of the firm, said it wasn’t responsible for the leakage and blamed it on the installation.

“We do not install them,” Bruce said. “That was all done for the general contractor …. They had some challenges with following the correct procedures for installation of those disks.”

Flatiron spokeswoman Elizabeth Fison Hudson said the firm wasn’t going to comment and referred questions to MnDOT.

The agency said the problem was discovered soon after the bridge opened. Herzog, the engineer enforcing the warranty, said, “I would deal with Flatiron. They would deal with their [subcontractor.]” He said both firms did some repair work under warranty, and it took two years to fully correct. “We had them out there so many times.”

MnDOT could make a quick fix or use salt on the bridge if necessary.

Much of the time involved haggling over responsibility. “I’d have to review the contract with them and show why they have to come out there and stand behind the warranty,” Herzog said.

He said he doesn’t know the cost of the repairs done by contractors under the warranty.

But the state ended up paying $130,875 for additional anti-icing repairs because the bridge contract didn’t specify them as under warranty.

“I’d have to tell my guys, ‘This is on us, because we didn’t spec out a perfect contract,’ ” Herzog said.


Pat Doyle • 612-673-4504


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