Environmental Protection

FHWA Offers Lessons Learned in Rebuilding I-35W Bridge

The Federal Highway Association's January 2009 Successes in Stewardship monthly newsletter features a report summarizing the construction of the new I-35W St. Anthony's Falls Bridge in Minneapolis, Minn., that opened on Sept. 18, 2008 -- three months ahead of schedule and only 13 months after the sudden Aug. 1, 2007, collapse of the multi-span bridge that had stood there.

"The startling speed of the environmental review process and contract decision demonstrated that, in emergencies, the timeframe can be reduced dramatically, from several years to several months, without compromising environmental standards or safety," the report states. "MnDOT held the reconstruction project to the same standards required for any transportation project of similar scope and scale."

FHWA's "Meeting Environmental Requirements After a Bridge Collapse" report is now available on the FHWA Environmental Review Toolkit's Web site, which is available at http://environment.fhwa.dot.gov/strmlng/newsletters/jan09nl.asp. The report is intended to help transportation and environmental professionals expedite environmental review after a bridge collapse or similar emergency; FHWA notes there have been five bridge collapses since 2002 in the United States:

• I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, collapsed in August 2007

• I-10 bridge over Escambia Bay in Florida, destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004

• I-40 bridge over the Arkansas River near Webbers Falls, Okla., partially collapsed after being struck by a barge in May 2002

• US-90 bridge over Biloxi Bay in Mississippi, destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005

• US-90 bridge over St. Louis Bay in Mississippi, destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 FHWA and DOT's Volpe National Transportation Systems Center developed case studies for all five and used them in developing the report. Federal, state, and local agencies assisted.

This edition of the newsletter also mentioned the July 24, 2008, U.S. House of Representatives passage of the National Highway Bridge Reconstruction and Inspection Act of 2008 (H.R. 3999, the Oberstar Bridge Bill), sponsored by Rep. James L. Oberstar, D-Minn. The bill authorizes an additional $1 billion in FY 2009 to rebuild structurally deficient bridges.

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