Image: Draft of new bridge
This artists rendition shows a preliminary plan of a 10-lane replacement Minn. bridge.
updated 8/14/2007 9:26:10 PM ET 2007-08-15T01:26:10

The preliminary design for a new interstate bridge doesn’t include any room for a memorial to the victims of the collapsed span or other key features, worrying city leaders who could jeopardize the breakneck schedule to rebuild the critical transit link.

State authorities need support from the Minneapolis City Council to get the new bridge built by December 2008 and ease traffic in the gridlocked region.

But at it’s first airing Tuesday before the council, members complained that it wouldn’t accommodate a future light rail line and lacked features to make the bridge more like a memorial.

“I think the public is asking for a distinctive bridge,” said Councilwoman Diane Hofstede. “This is a bridge that got international attention and was the scene of a terribly tragedy.”

The Minnesota Department of Transportation said it wants a vote of support from the City Council, called municipal consent. Without it, the bureaucratic hassle could delay construction.

“To keep the aggressive timeline, having the city’s consent would certainly enhance that prospect,” said Bob McFarlin, assistant to the state transportation commissioner.

The old Interstate 35W bridge collapsed Aug. 1 during the evening rush hour. Divers and other rescue crews have recovered nine bodies since then.

Four people remain missing in the murky Mississippi River and are presumed dead.

Treacherous currents stop diving
Navy divers stayed out of the river Tuesday after heavy rains overnight made the currents too treacherous to resume the search, said Randy Mitchell, a spokesman for the dive operation.

Salvage contractors used the break to remove debris from the site, something that would be too dangerous to do with divers in the water.

The preliminary design released Tuesday shows little more than an aerial view of a 10-lane span, two lanes wider than the old bridge.

It will be up to a contractor, to be chosen from an initial field of five, to flesh out the design for the bridge, which should last 100 years.

State officials have projected the bridge replacement will cost between $200 million and $250 million, and they want most of the construction costs to be covered by relief money from the federal government.

Officials have said they are concerned a light rail line would not get federal funding.

Meanwhile, Minnesota will get another $133.3 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to ease congestion on Interstate 35W south of the collapsed bridge, between downtown Minneapolis and the southern suburbs, Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s office announced.

The grant, part of a national program to cut congestion, can be used for toll lanes, bus rapid transit and bus lanes, more park-and-ride lots and efforts to push telecommuting and other traffic-reducing measures.

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