The former northbound view of Interstate 35W across the former Mississippi River bridge. Photo taken 04/23/07.
The Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed during the peak traffic hours of August 1, 2007, near Downtown Minneapolis. Without any notice, the deck truss bridge (built in 1964, opened in 1967, 1907 feet long, 14 spans) plummeted into the waters of the Mississippi River some 64 feet below, sending drivers and their vehicles into the river in an instant.1 A total of 111 vehicles were on the portion of bridge that collapsed; 13 people died and 145 people were injured in the tragedy. Inadequate load capacity of the gusset plates (support elements along the under side of the bridge) failed, causing the bridge collapse to occur. An in depth report from the NTSB on the event is available here.
A $15-million contract to remove the bridge debris was awarded to Carl Bolander & Sons Co. on August 8, 2007. Crews used three cranes to lift the bridge deck segments for their move to a staging area for analysis by NTSB officials.
During this period without the crossing, commuters were directed on Interstate 94 and Minnesota 280 to circumvent the bridge area of Interstate 35W. MnDOT blocked Minnesota 280’s intersections with County Road B, Broadway Street N.E., Walnut Street and Roselawn Avenue in an effort to temporarily upgrade all of Minnesota 280 into a full freeway (Minnesota 280 existed previously as a freeway halfway between Interstates 94 and 35W).
The replacement span opened well ahead of schedule on September 18, 2008 and carries ten overall lanes of traffic. Named the St. Anthony Falls Bridge, the span is 189 feet wide, 76 feet wider than the original span, and includes both full inside and outside shoulders.
Interstate 35W completion dates per Minnesota Official Highway Maps:
- 1961 – I-35W was open from a point north of Minnesota 13 at Burnsville to the Lyndale Connector (then U.S. 65).
- 1965 – I-35W under construction southward from MN 13 to I-35 at Burnsville and northward from the Lyndale Connector to Lake Street.
- 1968 – open from Burnsville (I-35) north to I-94 and Downtown Minneapolis and from Minnesota 208 (Exit 23A) north to County Road H (Exit 28C) at Mounds View.
- Fall 1968 – I-35W extended north from Mounds View to Lake Drive (then U.S. 8) at Lino Lakes. I-35E and I-94 side by side section through Downtown Minneapolis also completed.
- 1969 – Mississippi River Bridge north of Downtown Minneapolis.
- 1970 – Interstate 35W complete between Lake Drive in Lino Lakes to I-35 at Columbus.
- 1973 – I-35W extended south from the Mississippi River Bridge to I-94 and north to Hennepin Avenue (Exit 19). The north section of I-35W opened west to New Brighton Boulevard (then U.S. 8) and cosigned as Minnesota 36.
- 1976 – Interstate 35W completed overall with the section between Hennepin Avenue and New Brighton Boulevard opened. The interchange along this segment with I-335 dropped as the route was canceled.
History of Split Routes
In their guidelines of signing Interstates, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) mandated that all suffixed Interstate highways be removed from the Interstate system in the late 1960s and 1970s. This resulted in many changes to the system, including:
- Interstate 5W to I-505 and I-580 (Oakland to south of Tracy) in California
- Interstate 15E to I-215 in California (former U.S. 395)
- Interstate 15W to the Western Interstate 86 in Idaho
- Interstate 35 to I-135 in Kansas
- Interstate 70N to I-70 and Interstate 70S to I-270 in Maryland
- Interstate 75E to I-75 in the Tampa Bay Area (original I-75 was renumbered I-275)
- Interstate 80N to I-680 in Iowa
- Interstate 80N to the Western I-84 in Oregon, Idaho, and Utah
- Interstate 80S to I-76 in Colorado
- Interstate 80S to I-76 in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey
- Interstate 81E to I-380 in Pennsylvania
Most of these conversions were completed during the 1960s and 1970s. The Western Interstate 84 was among the last, as it was converted by 1980. However, there were two exceptions remaining in the system: Interstate 35 splits twice into Interstate 35E and Interstate 35W, once in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area and again in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. The reason these split routes still remain is that neither city wanted to relinquish the routing of Interstate 35. AASHTO conceded and the split suffixed routing remains in both Texas and Minnesota.
A new set of split routes appeared in 2013 when Interstates 69C and 69E were established in South Texas by an act of Congress. The circumvented the authority of AASHTO and the mandate that no new suffixed routes be designated. Interstate 69W was established a year later.