I-35W bridge almost complete

The new Interstate 35W bridge is expected to open to motorists as early as next Tuesday . At 11 a.m. Monday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and other officials will announce the opening date, which officials say will be sometime next week. âÄúThe intent is to open the bridge up to traffic as soon it is ready for traffic,âÄù Kevin Gutknecht, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said. ItâÄôs unlikely that there will be a ceremony for the opening of the bridge, Gutknecht said. Three months after the old bridge collapsed, construction began on the $234 million project under a contract with Flatiron Construction. The construction team could be eligible for up to a $20 million bonus if they finish the bridge by Monday. According to the stateâÄôs contract with Flatiron, the company will get $200,000 for every day the bridge is finished before Dec. 24, up to 100 days. Monday is the 100 day mark. The main priority is to get the bridge open to the 141,000 motorists that used the bridge every day before the collapse, Gutknecht said. âÄúIt costs the road users $400,000 every day the bridge is closed because users have to travel further and burn more fuel,âÄù he said. Remaining tasks include painting, landscaping and installing road signs and anti-icing systems, Gutknecht said. âÄúI equate it to building a house,âÄù he said. âÄúYou have the siding and the roof on and you walk inside and you have to paint the walls, seal the trim and put in a kitchen sink.âÄù Jon Chiglo , the design build project manager for the bridge, said they want to complete the work that would impact traffic first. Chiglo, who ultimately decides when the bridge will open, said safety and quality ranked above speed. âÄúWe are very happy with the safety and quality of the work, but those two have to be satisfied before we move forward,âÄù he said. Amy Barrett, spokeswoman for Flatiron Construction, said the speed can be attributed to an overlapping work process. âÄúWe have been working on various aspects of the bridge project simultaneously, things that would typically be done sequentially,âÄù she said. âÄúInvestment up front and additional equipment and labor allowed us to do more, using the same process on a shorter time span.âÄù Features of the new bridge include a 100-year life span and 10 traffic lanes, according to MnDOT. The bridge will also be light-rail ready to accommodate future transportation plans. Smart bridge technology will also be incorporated into the new bridge to monitor the structural health of the bridge over time, Chiglo said. âÄúThere are a lot of enhancements and interesting elements that have been added to the bridge,âÄù he said.