04 January 2009

A Better Way...

...that might be less expensive?

About the time we started WordAlone, I began traveling to Minnesota for meetings. I would usually stay at my sister- & brother-in-law's home in Eagan, and many of the meetings were in Mahtomedi. This meant that I traveled up I-494 across the Minnesota River a lot.

When I started attending these meetings, in 1999, there was a construction project on that bridge that was already well under way. You can track the history of that project here. The project is now slated for completion in 2010.

I cannot find any numbers to back this up, but I believe that much of the time and expense of a project like this is created in the constant re-routing of traffic, and building of temporary accesses and roadways so that the road can remain open while the construction goes on.

I am starting to wonder if the extra expense and time are worth it.

Consider the case of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge. It collapsed on 1 August 2007, and, sadly, 13 motorists were killed in the collapse.

Almost immediately, work began on a new bridge, and it opened on September 18, 2008, three months ahead of schedule.

As far as I can tell, the dire predictions of gridlock and business failures caused by the inconvenience of not having the I-35W bridge available did not pan out. And because the construction crews were not having to constantly build tear up and rebuild access roadways to keep the traffic moving, the bridge was completed in record time.

What if we simply announced a year in advance that a major project like the I-494 bridge at the Minnesota was going to be done, and that we were going to close the area to traffic for, oh say, 18 months while the project was completed. Yes, people would complain (including probably me), but what would the savings be in costs, construction times and the resulting years and years of construction delays that would no longer be necessary?

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