Aug. 1, 2007, was a day that many will remember for the rest of their lives.  What started as a typical work day ended, tragically, when during rush hour, the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring almost 100.

The location of the collapse was near a main natural gas supply line for CenterPoint Energy. Even though the collapse didn’t cause any damage to the gas system, plans to rebuild the bridge required a considerable amount of work to the gas lines. CenterPoint Energy called on crews from Michels Pipeline Construction, Burnsville, Minn., a division of Michels Corp. located in Brownsville, Wis., to start work — immediately.

Michels began by replacing 20- and 16-in. gas mains that had been in service since the early 1900s. Crews also had to replace parallel 20- and 16-in. gas installations, involving above grade valve manifolds along with two valve pit reconstructions for a total of 1,600 ft. The gas mains Michels was working on were the distribution mainlines for CenterPoint, so work needed to be completed prior to the heating season and before the start of the bridge reconstruction.

Crews from Michels’ Pipeline worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week.  Addressing environmental concerns was a top priority for Michels and for CenterPoint. “It was truly an eye opening and awe inspiring work site,” said Michels’ foreman Tom Miller. “When we first arrived at the disaster site, it was hard to imagine what the victims experienced.”

The job took more than 7,200 man hours to complete.  Michels officials said they are proud to report no accidents or injuries occurred during their time on that particular jobsite. OSHA inspectors commented on the fact that Michels’ crews work safely, while Minnesota Department of Transportation expressed, in writing, its appreciation to the Michels crews for a job well done.

Michels was called on — a couple months earlier than expected — to replace a 20-in. pipe on the north side of the I-35W Bridge.  In January 2008, crews replaced an old main that was in the way of where a pier had to be built for the new bridge.

In May, crews from Michels Pipeline returned to the bridge site in order to complete their work on the I-35W rebuild.  Crews will head to the south side of the bridge where they will replace another 20-in. main gas pipe — making way for a new pier to be installed prior to the completion of the new I-35W Bridge.

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