Thursday, September 11, 2008

Making a Bridge

The new I-35W bridge, now named the St. Anthony Falls Bridge, is probably going to open next week. It's the replacement for the bridge that collapsed last year, killing 13 people and injuring more than 100 others. The construction has taken a little over 10 months. Click here for construction info and photos. Apparently there is no grand opening ceremony in the works, though something of the sort may be announced next week at a press conference scheduled for Monday.

I never drove over the old bridge much - maybe 5 or 6 times in the 20+ years I've lived here. I had to really think which bridge it was, in fact, since the way it was constructed afforded almost no view of the river. It wasn't clear to drivers that they were even on a bridge, actually, unless they'd studied maps or had some particular reason to know that. It really was more visible and apparent from its nearest neighbor, the 10th Ave. Bridge, and from underneath, on the West River Road, than going over it in a car, where it whipped past anonymously and unnoticed. Click here for a Wikipedia article about this bridge.

As the announcements have come this week of the imminent opening of the new bridge, I have been intrigued by some of the design elements that are being revealed at the very end of the construction phase. Apparently the lights on the bridge will be of different and changing colors, which is a nice way, I think, of giving the new bridge a distinctive identity that it lacked before. But the best new feature, in my opinion are the two "Gateway Monuments." (See photo.)
There will be a large, wavy sculpture, the international symbol for water, on each side of the bridge at the point where it begins to cross the water. It's a nice reminder of the purpose of the bridge, a connection with the river that it didn't have before, and also a symbol of the disparate origins of the people who were killed and injured when the old bridge collapsed.
And I do hope there will be some sort of opening ceremony. A traumatic event like that needs to be publicly grieved, commemorated, and celebrated, its story told and remembered. Such celebrations are essential bridges to the new Now.

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