Fast. Cheap. Right. Pick two.

How often, driving over a freeway bridge or under a railroad overpass, do you think, “Hey, I’m sure glad they finished that eight weeks early”?

That thought came to my mind when I head that that Flatiron Construction thinks it can finish the new Interstate 35W bridge by September, rather than well into winter. They’re not making any guarantees, but there is a $200,000-a-day carrot at the end of the MnDot stick. (You can read the story here.)

It’s hard to argue with the builder’s alacrity, particularly if you’ve spent any time sitting on Minnesota 280 in Lauderdale.


But the construction is at the point at which some of the state’s most recent bridge misadventures have occurred.

An apparent miscalculation by a scaffolding engineer led to the collapse of the Lake Street bridge one night in April 1990. They had to start over. Similarly, a design flaw is blamed for the hairline cracks that brought construction on the Wakota Bridge to a halt three years ago.

That project still isn’t finished.

In fact, the only engineering feat that brings fame to mind for the speed of its completion was the transcontinental railroad, which was finished in 1869.


It’s also remembered for the Enron-esque Credit Mobilier scandal and a smallpox epidemic from which we’d recoil in bio-terror today.

The project also involved some early, and apparently often fatal, experiments with nitroglycerin and a forced-labor work-ethic for some of the Chinese immigrants working on the project.

There is also the issue that the railroad and its construction helped wipe out Native American populations across the West. If you set those issues aside, the construction of the railroad was an amazing feat.

At any rate, the general rule of getting things done seems to be: Fast. Cheap. Right. Pick any two.

Flatiron wasn’t the low bidder on the project, and there’s speculation that taxpayers may have to put up as much as $20 million more to get the job done early.

  • C

    all i gotta say is that every night i drive across the 94 bridge over the mississippi heading east i drive in the right lane quickly with my window down.

  • Jamie

    Good idea, C.

    I thought the same thing about the prospect of the bridge being finished early. It won’t kill us to wait a few more months, but it COULD kill us to finish early. I’ve never heard anything so short-sighted. And my taxes are going to be paying for this.

    Incidentally, we say in advertising, “Good, Fast, or Cheap. Pick any two.”