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A bridge-eye view

Minneapolis / I-35W site tours

Visitors can see rebuilding effort

By Mike Dougherty

mdougherty@postbulletin.com

MINNEAPOLIS — Each Saturday morning people gather in a parking lot near the bridge and wait for the man in the hard-hat to arrive.

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And each Saturday, it seems, the crowds have slowly grown as their tour group walks to view the progress of construction of the bridge across the Mississippi River.

After Aug. 1, 2007, you don’t need to say much else, except "the bridge" when you reference the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis that collapsed, killing 13 people.

But now a bridge has arisen in its place.

Every Saturday at 11 a.m., visitors can join the informal Saturday Sidewalk Talks as they walk out on the 10th Avenue bridge in Minneapolis, guided by some of the engineers and managers who are working on this nonstop rebuilding effort.

"The speed of construction on this project means there’s something new to look at each week," said Kevin Gutknecht, the communications manager of the project.

Last weekend, a big one because construction crews installed the final pre-cast concrete segments for the northbound span, about 400 people turned out to view the progress.

Gutknecht estimates that thousands have ventured out in the pedestrian lane of the adjacent bridge for the tours. As the weather has warmed, the number of people on the tours has been in the hundreds — the last few weeks have numbered from 200 to 300.

The tours are unique for such a project, but because there was such an interest, they became part of the process. And it helped to have an adjacent bridge.

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"Having a city bridge next to the project makes it the perfect place to do this," Gutknecht said.

But get there quick. The construction will seem less distinct as the spans close up.

This week, Gutknecht said crews will complete installation of concrete forms and the final concrete pour, or "closure pour" for the north bound bridge. Work is also continuing on the south bound bridge. The final segments of that bridge should be installed later this week and the closure pour will take place next week, Gutknecht said.

For more, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks.

If you go

What: Saturday Sidewalk Talks at the Interstate 35W bridge site

When: 11 a.m. Saturdays

Where: The free tours meet at a surface parking lot east of the former Grandma’s, 1800 Washington Ave. S. in Minneapolis.

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Tips: Get there a little early. Tours start as soon as there are enough people to lead out. Be prepared to walk. Tours are about 45 minutes. Park in the ramp near Grandma’s and the Holiday Inn Metrodome.

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I-35W bridge

http://projects.dot.state.mn.us/35wbridge/index.html

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