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Structurally Unsound

August 06, 2007 By Conrad deFiebre, Transportation Fellow
About 70 highway bridges in the Twin Cities metropolitan area were rated two years ago as less structurally sound than the I-35W span over the Mississippi River, whose deadly collapse was Minnesota's worst bridge failure ever.

In an April 2005 report from the Minnesota Department of Transportation on structurally deficient and obsolete bridges in the seven-county metro area obtained by Minnesota 2020, the I-35W span was deemed the best of the lot. Its rating of 50 meant it was considered a borderline case.

Eleven other trunk highway bridges were further down the list, including major spans over the Mississippi carrying U.S. Hwy. 52 at St. Paul, built in 1968, and U.S. Hwy. 61 at Hastings, built in 1950. At least two of the deficient bridges identified two years ago - an I-35E overpass at the junction of I-694 in Little Canada and the I-494 Wakota Bridge over the Mississippi at South St. Paul, both built in 1959 - are being replaced.

Of greatest current concern is the heavily traveled I-35E span over Cayuga Street and railroad tracks just north of downtown St. Paul. Built in 1965, its rating was 40.8 two years ago.

Dozens of smaller township, city and county road bridges also made the list, including a Minneapolis street span over Minnehaha Creek built in 1890. The average age of all the metro deficient bridges was 70 years. The estimated improvement costs in 2005 for all of them totaled $111.5 million.

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