After three years, efforts to remove the mangled remains of the Interstate 35W Bridge from the Bohemian Flats area started Tuesday.
Crews began by cutting up large pieces of debris to be loaded onto flatbed trucks, and plan for all of the wreckage to be cleared from alongside the west bank of the Mississippi River within a month.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation began the move after attorneys involved in lawsuits stemming from the bridge’s collapse decided the steel could be transported from the park without compromising evidence in cases, said MnDOT spokesman Kevin Gutknecht.
MnDOT hired St. Paul-based Carl Bolander & Sons Co. to move the wreckage to the east side of the metro area.
Trucks will begin transporting the pieces Wednesday, after contractors and workers spent the first day at the site surveying and cutting pieces with a torch.
While it may take a month to clear the park, it could still be about a year before it is fully restored and ready for events, said Nick Eoloff of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
“This park is part of the scenic byway and it wasn’t very scenic for awhile,” Eoloff said. “It is nice to give this back to the people. “
Before it became an investigation site, the Bohemian Flats was used for events, parking and boat tours of the Mississippi River, all of which are expected to resume when the park is operational, Eoloff said.
During the investigation, the board said they were losing about $36,000 a year in revenue.
In addition, a $470,000 federal grant was postponed because of the collapse, but the board still hopes to receive that money for a picnic pavilion, restrooms and observation deck.
For many University of Minnesota students, the wreckage has been a constant sight, one that has been there during their entire time on campus.
Laura Bellomo, a senior, started school shortly after the bridge collapse in 2007.
She believes a memorial would be appropriate for the spot. “Maybe they could use some of the wreckage … for a sculpture like those in the garden at the Walker [Art Center],” she said.
Bellomo said she had never seen anyone use the area where the wreckage is but that it makes sense to finally have the wreckage moved.
“It’s been there long enough,” she said.