Transportation notes

Airport noise to temporarily decrease over Southwest

The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is closing a portion of one of its runways on Aug. 13 until Oct. 17 for reconstruction. As a result, airport noise will decrease over Southwest and increase over Downtown.

During the month of June, 5,760 planes landed and 3,312 planes took off using the runway, which receives flights from over Richfield and Southwest Minneapolis. Starting in mid-August, these flights will be rerouted to three other runways, several of which have paths over parts of Minneapolis.

Approximately 375 planes per day will be steered onto and off of the airport’s newest runway, which flies over Downtown and the northeast tip of Southwest. According to noise impact reports from the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), “Residents under the arrival path will notice more aircraft where there have previously been very few.”

Some residents were alarmed about the new route. “Citizens were told that [the new runway] would be used over Minneapolis in emergency conditions only,” wrote Jim Spensley in a newsletter by the South Metro Airport Action Council, an airport watchdog group.

But at a July 30 open house about the runway reconstruction, representatives from the MAC displayed a section of their contract that permits use of the runway while others undergo reconstruction.

Southwest and Downtown will continue to experience noise from departures, as flight paths are staying mostly the same. Departures are usually quieter than arrivals, because when planes take off, they soar quickly and, when landing, they descend gradually.

The center segment — 3,100 feet — of the runway that points over Southwest needs to be reconstructed due to usage and age. It was built in 1950, extended in 1961 and repaired on the east and west ends in the late 90s. The MAC will replace the existing surface with three layers of concrete, crushed limestone and granular material. Next summer, they’ll begin work on the center segment of the runway parallel to the current project.

“The idea is to have it out of the way before the Republican National Convention comes,” said Pat Hogan, a public relations representative for the MAC. “We want to make a good impression for the Twin Cities.”

Reconstruction on both runways will cost $40.5 million and should last around 50 years. The good part of doing this now is that operations are down, Hogan said.

Crosstown bridge has low sufficiency rating

The Highway 62 eastbound bridge that passes over Interstate 35W near Lyndale Avenue has a sufficiency rating of 34.6 percent, according to a recent report in the Star Tribune citing the Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inventory database. The two-lane bridge was built in 1964, the report says, and currently meets the “minimum tolerable limits to be left as is” — a rating lower than the collapsed I-35W bridge.

The bridge is set to be replaced under the Crosstown Reconstruction project, said Steve Barrett, resident engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, but it will be in service until “at least the second half of ’08, possibly ’09.”

In terms of estimated cost, Barrett explained, the traditional steel beam replacement bridge will be the most expensive overpass in the Crosstown project. “Because of all the widening that we’re doing for the additional lanes on 62 in the connections to 35 and Lyndale Avenue, it ends up being a pretty wide, long bridge,” he said.

The new bridge will have two lanes heading north on 35W and a third lane for eastbound 62. “A brand new bridge under the latest design standard, if you’re worried about it collapsing, it should definitely be safer,” said Barrett. “It’s designed to carry the design loads that we expect it to carry.”

When the I-35W bridge fell, Crosstown workers halted nighttime construction and lent some of their lights to the collapse site. They restarted night work on
Aug. 5.

“There’s no impact to the Crosstown project schedule at this point,” Barrett says. “I’ve heard of projects where they’ve ordered contractors to suspend operations and to move their resources to other — what were deemed more critical — projects. Now, I don’t know if anything like that will happen on our project or not. It’s just too early to know.”