Roadguy: 35W bridge questions? This guy has the answers

  • Article by: Jim Foti
  • Star Tribune
  • October 13, 2007 - 5:48 PM

Roadguy is leery of anything labeled "frequently asked questions," but this past week, he kept hearing the same questions and bits of confusion about the new Interstate 35W bridge. Below are some attempts to clear things up so that you, too, can be as bridge-savvy as possible (if you aren't already, of course).

I don't see light rail on the new bridge. What happened?

The bridge will be built strong enough to carry light-rail trains, but because no rail line will be built through the area in the foreseeable future, no tracks are being installed at this time. That area of the deck will be used for vehicles.

How are we supposed to appreciate the monuments to the dead when we're driving by at 55 miles per hour?

There's some verbal confusion about a few of the bridge's features. The proposed "gateway monuments" next to the roadway are basically decorations that indicate you're crossing a big river, not monuments to the 13 people who died in the collapse. The memorial to the victims will be developed separately.

Why is everyone happy that the bridge has redundant features? Doesn't redundant mean superfluous?

Your high school English teacher probably told you to avoid redundancies, but in bridge-speak, redundant means that a bridge has multiple components supporting the same area. That way, if an individual piece of the bridge cracks or fails, the whole thing won't come down. Most bridges today are designed with redundancies; the bridge that collapsed was not.

I looked at the designs from the losing teams and was unimpressed with Santiago Calatrava's contribution.

Actually, unless you're a close personal friend of Calatrava, you didn't see his design -- it wasn't submitted as part of the final proposals. The Spanish architect had floated an idea for an alternative design concept, but prior to the deadline, the state told him it did not meet the expectations for redundancies, so it was not officially submitted. (Designs submitted by all the teams can be seen in today's Arts+Entertainment section.)

Didn't the Minneapolis City Council get to vote on the design?

Not really, no. Under state law, municipalities get to give the OK on a project's basic layout, and that's about it. The city did have a representative on the six-member panel that evaluated the proposals for the bridge, but it was a public works employee, not a council member.

Where can I express my adoration of (or deep unhappiness with) the design?

Actually, people never ask Roadguy that -- they just start gushing or venting directly at Roadguy. But if you want to share your bridge feelings with the powerful among us, visit and click on "comment."

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