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Expert Alert: The Twin Ports Interchange

Bridge from Duluth to Wisconsin in the twilight
April 7, 2021

The Twin Ports Interchange project began this year, and it’s already impacting the pace of getting through Duluth.

Why is this project necessary and why now? Andrea Schokker, professor of Civil Engineering and head of Civil, Mechanical, and Industrial Engineering, is an expert on infrastructure. She’s available for your reporting on the project and for questions regarding the history of this signature Twin Ports thoroughfare.

  1. As background, can you talk generally about the state of infrastructure and how it relates to your work as a structural engineer?

Whether it’s our highways, bridges, the power grid, levees, clean drinking water or a host of other critical networks, we already have a lot of catch up to address the deterioration of our infrastructure. The good news is that we have incredible innovations that have developed over the many decades since much of our infrastructure was originally built. As a structural engineer I’m focused on making sure that our structures are resilient and that our new bridges have lifespans exceeding 100 years.

  1. Why is it important to make these improvements now?

The more we postpone the repairs, the more we risk public safety and the more likely we are to have to replace structures entirely. With every year we delay, the remedy becomes more costly.

  1. The can of worms portion of I-35 was built more than a half century ago. How have materials and design practices changed since then?

If you consider that computers had not entered the scene a half century ago, you get a flavor for how much things have changed! We are now able to model traffic flow scenarios and even visualize the driver experience before construction begins (check out the video on the project website for example). We’ve also come a long way in material development. Our present day concrete, for instance, is far more durable and much more consistent in performance while also having a reduced carbon footprint. Projects like the can of worms benefit from the ability to look at the full system and design a solution rather than having to piece together isolated fixes. When our nation puts significant investments into infrastructure it allows us to develop long lasting and efficient solutions. 

More information about the project

About Andrea Schokker

Dr. Schokker’s research includes design and materials related improvements in prestressed concrete, segmental concrete bridge design, resiliency of concrete structures, durability of concrete structures, and corrosion of metals in concrete. She’s a licensed professional engineer and a LEED AP (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional).

Schokker founded UMD’s Department of Civil Engineering in 2008, and in 2011 she became the first female executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at UMD. She returned to Civil Engineering as department head in 2016.


Andrea Schokker, PhD, P.E., LEED AP

Professor of Civil Engineering

Head of Civil, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

1405 University Dr, Duluth, MN 55812

University of Minnesota Duluth | | 218-726-6446