Questions for Linda Figg

Learn more about my research In May 2008, Linda Figg answered visitors questions about architecture.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Joe's picture
Joe says:

What inspired you to pursue the career you are in now?

posted on Thu, 05/08/2008 - 4:49pm
Linda Figg's picture
Linda Figg says:

When I was growing up I was always inspired by the challenge of putting things together like sewing my own clothes from the time I was 9 years old through high school. I knew I wanted to be an engineer when I was in high school because math and science were classes I enjoyed the most. It wasn't obvious to me at the time but now it is easy to see that my analytical, visual, and spatial skills just naturally attracted me to want to "build" things. To "build" really "great" things meant finding a career in engineering. My father was an engineer and he inspired me to think of engineering as a career choice. He took me to visit Auburn University Engineering School and I knew before we left that day that I wanted to be a civil engineer and create structures. My favorite structures were bridges because they can be both technical and artistic. Ultimately there were 3 girls in my graduating class in civil engineering. But that was 1981 and things have changed a lot since then. Now that the word has gotten out that engineering can be fun, there are many people graduating with engineering degrees from very diverse backgrounds.

It is important to me to be a part of creating bridges that make a difference in the quality of people’s lives. Improving mobility helps people have more time to spend with their families and makes it quicker to get to hospitals in an emergency. The beauty of a bridge improves the economy of an area and inspires people to appreciate the good in our communities. In engineering we deal with developing positive solutions that are tangible in people’s lives. It is easy to see the value and benefits that engineering brings to society and the betterment of communities. We design bridges that connect people in a real way. That is a daily inspiration to me.

posted on Tue, 06/03/2008 - 4:30pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What elements of the design of the new bridge make it safer?

posted on Sat, 05/10/2008 - 9:37pm
Linda Figg's picture
Linda Figg says:

There are many elements of the new bridge that make it safer. First, the bridge is very wide – 90’-4” wide in each direction for 5 lanes with 13’ and 14’ safety shoulders on each side. We designed the bridge as if it had 14 full lanes of traffic on it when it will be striped to carry 10 lanes of traffic. It was also designed to carry a future rail transit vehicle in both directions. The new I-35W St. Anthony Falls Bridge is being constructed using high-strength, high-performance concrete. The concrete used on this bridge includes some of the highest strength concrete used on a bridge in Minnesota.

In addition, the new bridge has multiple levels of redundancy. For example, inside the concrete are high-strength steel strands that hold the concrete pieces, called segments, together. Because there are multiple steel strands they back each other up. There are no fracture critical elements in the bridge. And, a special corrosion protection plan was implemented to protect all of the steel members. There is grout around the steel strands, then the steel strands and grout are encased in a pipe and the pipe is embedded inside the concrete. So there are multiple levels of extra protection.

Redundancy can also be found in the layout of the new bridge. Instead of having one set of piers, the bridge has four sets of piers – two for northbound traffic and two for southbound traffic. This way, the load is shared between different elements.

The design of the new bridge also incorporates SMART bridge technology. Sensors are being embedded into the concrete that will provide real-time data on the behavior of the bridge. The University of Minnesota is collaborating with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to review the data from the sensors as a valuable tool for the design of future bridges.

posted on Tue, 06/03/2008 - 4:30pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What was the first bridge you designed or helped build? What was the most exciting project you worked on?

posted on Sat, 05/10/2008 - 9:38pm
Linda Figg's picture
Linda Figg says:

My first job at FIGG was Assistant Erection Engineer during construction of the Niles Channel Bridge in Marathon, Florida in the Florida Keys. I helped in monitoring the bridge’s construction and I really learned how bridge design and bridge construction need to go hand-in-hand – the bridge that is designed has to be constructible. It was fascinating to me to work on the building of a bridge at the construction site. Then for my next assignment I moved to the engineering design office and worked on the design of several bridges including all aspects from foundations to superstructure. Each bridge was exciting because they were different and allowed for creativity in the design development.

I often get asked “What is your favorite bridge?” and truly each bridge is a favorite. Each one has its own special characteristics that were based on a vision for the needs of the particular site and community. I guess being a person who loves bridges I personally get excited about each bridge I work on. The I-35W St. Anthony Falls Bridge is very exciting. We began developing concepts for the bridge in early August of last year (2007) and worked very had to develop a unique modern design with multi-levels of redundancy for the design/build competition. Winning the opportunity to accomplish this new bridge was a thrill. We know how important it is to the community. When we received notice to proceed on October 8, 2007 we went right to work to design a high strength, high performance bridge that would last well over 100 years.

posted on Tue, 06/03/2008 - 4:31pm
kw's picture
kw says:

What materials do you use in your bridge designs? Are they enivormentally friendly?

posted on Sun, 05/11/2008 - 4:16pm
Linda Figg's picture
Linda Figg says:

The majority of bridges that we design are built using high-strength concrete. Concrete is made of four basic materials – water, sand, gravel and cement. Each of these elements is made using natural materials, so concrete is environmentally friendly. In addition, concrete can be crushed and reused in new concrete, so it is recyclable. Since this high-strength concrete is produced locally it takes less energy to deliver the materials to the site for construction. Cemstone is the local concrete supplier and has used local labor to achieve the best material results. The whole bridge is built with almost all local labor – at the peak there are approximately 600 people at the construction site.
The storm water from the bridge will be collected along the outside edges of the bridge deck in special drains and then flows through pipes to storm water treatment ponds for improvement of the water quality.
The new I-35W bridge also uses recycled glass in its design. I-35W crosses over 2nd Street on the north side of the Mississippi River. On this overpass are wall supports that are connected to sidewalks along 2nd Street. A 5’ recessed panel along both sides of these walls will feature concrete tiles (6” x 16” each) that are mosaics of recycled glass that is formulated into the concrete mix. These mosaic tiles were created by approximately 1800 local students (5th through 10th grade classes) using blue, yellow and green recycled glass.
The new I-35W bridge is designed to be sustainable. It will last over 100 years and is adaptable for future traffic demands. Because the bridge is sustainable, it is environmentally friendly.

posted on Tue, 06/03/2008 - 4:35pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What is the hardest part of building bridges?

posted on Tue, 05/20/2008 - 11:41am
Linda Figg's picture
Linda Figg says:

The most challenging part of building a bridge is different for each one. On some bridges, the most difficult part of construction is site constraints. If a bridge is being built in a city where there is a lot of congestion then it can be hard for the contractor to find room to place equipment or the bridge parts. This was one of the challenges for the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge in downtown Boston, Massachusetts. The new bridge was being built right next to where there were already many roadways, tunnels and other bridges. Figuring out a way to build the bridge within the small amount of open space was an important challenge to solve.

Other projects are challenging because of the weather at the bridge location. For the Four Bears Bridge in New Town, North Dakota, the winters were so harsh that the construction site had to be shut down for several months. The ice on the lake becomes 3½ feet thick and it restricts the ability to put equipment on the water. Construction over the water could not take place until the lake thawed out. Shutting down for the winter was also a challenge because the same workers were not always available when construction resumed, so new workers had to be found and trained. The weather conditions on the new I-35W bridge were not as harsh as the Four Bears Bridge even though wind chills were -40° some days.

On the I-35W St. Anthony Falls Bridge the mission was to create a sustainable, redundant and beautiful bridge with design and construction in less that 15 months, building over the great Mississippi River. Like many replacement bridges in America it is important to get the new bridge in operation as quickly as possible. The contractor, Flatiron-Manson JV, is working around the clock to open the bridge to traffic as soon as possible, using an excellent Minnesota work force, while making safety and quality top priorities.

posted on Tue, 06/03/2008 - 4:46pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What is the most beautiful bridge in your opinion?

posted on Sun, 05/25/2008 - 11:18am
Linda Figg's picture
Linda Figg says:

My favorite historical bridge, which I think is beautiful, is the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. It set a new standard for bridge design and construction with its many innovations. It is a remarkable story of technology and vision for connecting two land areas for the first time with the longest span of its kind. It was built in 1883 by John Roebling and his son, Washington, when people thought it was impossible. There is a wonderful book on the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough titled “The Great Bridge” that explains the remarkable story of its design and construction. This will always be one of my favorite bridges.

Additionally, there are many bridges today that I believe have great beauty. They can be simple stream crossings to large dramatic spans. When I look at the beauty of any bridge, I examine it first for its appropriateness to its surroundings. How it fits in harmony with its environment and how the bridge elements fit together proportionally with elegant shapes. Also the details must be visually pleasing. Details are things like connections between structural members, railing, lighting and the family of elements that create a total project. Each bridge leaves an impression, and that impression remains for as long as the bridge remains, so I believe as bridge designers we owe it to the community, it is a responsibility, to create bridges that are beautiful.

posted on Wed, 06/04/2008 - 4:31pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What is the biggest challenge about the new I-35 bridge? Is there anything about the local geology that makes it tough? What's the toughest location that you have had to build a bridge?

posted on Wed, 05/28/2008 - 8:49am
Leah Cason's picture
Leah Cason says:

If you could show young people one thing about science, technology, engineering and math that demonstrates its importance in our world, what would it be?

Leah Cason

posted on Mon, 06/02/2008 - 11:33am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

how do the bridges stay sturdy without the post underneath? also how many cars can be on a bridge at one time? or is there not a limit?

posted on Wed, 06/04/2008 - 12:35pm
McPhil's picture
McPhil says:

What is the heaviest bridge in the U.S.

posted on Fri, 06/06/2008 - 12:35pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Dear Linda,

Do you primarily do new construction and/or remodels? I am curious as I am an occupational Therapist and am also an Ergonomic Specialist and am interested in the area of remodeling for the disabled status post injury? Would this also be an are odf interest for you?

E-mail i have 10plus years experience and would like your insight.

Jacque Miller OTR/L, CDMS, QRC, Ergonomic Specialislist

posted on Thu, 06/26/2008 - 1:22pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Hi - what is the most important building in the state of MN?

posted on Thu, 06/26/2008 - 2:03pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

what is architecture?

posted on Thu, 06/26/2008 - 6:25pm