Design Chosen To Replace Fallen Bridge

Sections of the collapsed interstate 35W bridge with cars waiting to be cleared off, are seen in Minneapolis, Minn., Saturday, Aug. 11, 2007. Overnight thunderstorms halted diving at the bridge collapse site, slowing the attempt to find five people still missing in the river.
AP Photo/Nati Harnik
Minnesota officials are moving swiftly to replace the collapsed Minneapolis bridge and have already picked a preliminary design for the new span, an official said Monday.

Highway officials typically would select several design choices, but not this time, state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Lucy Kender said Monday.

She would not give any details of the design. She said public comment on the proposed 10-lane bridge over the Mississippi River will begin this week.

The official death toll from the Aug. 1 collapse of the Interstate 35W span rose to nine with the recovery of another body on Sunday.

The bridge that broke up and fell into the river on Aug. 1 was one of the state's busiest, and officials have set a goal of opening a replacement by the end of 2008.

At the site of the collapse, just down river from downtown Minneapolis, Navy divers returned to the murky river water at 6:15 a.m. Monday to search for the four people still missing.

Divers on Sunday recovered the body of 20-year-old Richard Chit. His mother is still missing.

The other three people known to be missing are Christine Sacorafas, 45; Greg Jolstad, 45; and Scott Sathers, 29.

As divers have been working the site, cranes have been removing vehicles from the ruined span. About 100 were on the structure when it fell and at least 44 have been removed, state officials said.

Heavy equipment is in place to state removing major debris once the recovery efforts are finished.

Vehicles removed Sunday included the yellow school bus that became a symbol of a disaster that could have been worse. Everyone on board — 52 children and several adults — escaped.

One of the bus survivors, Julie Graves, had been accompanying children from a neighborhood center in Minneapolis on a trip to a water park on the day of the collapse.

Her feet are in casts and tight wraps on her arms lock her elbows. She has been in a back brace since surgery last week to repair two broken vertebrae last week, but she is expected to make a full recovery.

About 100 people were injured in the collapse — including four still listed in serious condition.