Work begins on new I-35W bridge

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Construction began Thursday on a new Interstate 35W bridge, three months to the day since the sudden collapse of the old bridge Aug. 1.

Officials from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and from the bridge contractor, Flatiron Manson, took a group of about 20 members of the news media to the site for photos and interviews.

“We’ll be working 20 hours a day, six days a week,” said Peter Sanderson, project manager for Flatiron Manson. That’s two 10-hour shifts a day, he explained. About 40 workers were on-site Thursday, Sanderson said, while the workforce will grow to a peak of about 600 by April. Peak employment at the site, he said, would last “several months.”

Sanderson said all the workers at the site would be hired locally from Minneapolis Building Trades unions.

Flatiron Manson and the Minneapolis Building Trades Council have been in discussions to reach a Project Labor Agreement for the project, an agreement that would provide certain guarantees to the unions in exchange for a no-strike pledge. “We’re still negotiating,” Sanderson told reporters on the tour.

Flatiron Manson’s $234 million contract with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) specifies that the bridge will be completed by Dec. 24, 2008. “We’re determined to get it completed, particularly in a safe manner, and have it open on time,” Sanderson said.

“It’s important to get this bridge back in service,” said Jon Chiglo, project manager for reconstruction for MnDOT.

“A bridge of this complexity normally would take two to three years to build,” Sanderson said. He emphasized that safety “won’t be sacrificed one iota.”

Speaking with a reporter from the Minneapolis Labor Review, published by the Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council, Sanderson said: “We look forward to working with your members here. Everyone tells me they’re skilled and good to work with.”

On the first day of construction for the new bridge, workers began drilling a 120-foot test shaft on the east bank of the Mississippi River. The shaft will be filled with concrete and then tested and evaluated before work proceeds on the 32 shafts that will be drilled into the riverbank for piers to support the new 35W bridge.

Steve Share edits the Minneapolis Labor Review, the official publication of the Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council. Visit the CLUC website, www.minneapolisunions.org

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