Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Collapsed Bridge Repairs Were Delayed From 2006 to 2007

Crews were still looking for the injured from the collapse of bridge 9340 when the finger pointing of who might be to blame began. Former Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg, a Democrat, was on WCCO-AM saying that budget cuts had curtailed the DOT's ability to do complete bridge inspections. A few hours later Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a Republican who had vetoed the transportation bill two years in a row, was telling the media that the bridge had checked out just fine when inspected in 2005 and 2006.

A MN DOT document from March 2006 indicated that the bridge was scheduled for repairs in 2006, but it was removed from the schedule because it would be more efficient to do the work in 2007. One of the questions that needs to be answered is if budget constraints were the cause of delaying the repairs.

If the lack of funding for bridge repairs and inspections had anything to do with the collapse of the 35W bridge and the loss of life it caused, it has the potential to be a political landmine for Governor Pawlenty and those legislators who voted to support his transportation bill veto.

The cause of the collapse and the answer to the question "could this have been avoided" make take some time to determine. The National Transportation Safety Board has been called in. There is likely to be investigations on the state level as well.

Inside Minnesota Politics has obtained the 89-page report of bridge 9340's inspection in 2001. In it, there are perhaps some hints of what may have brought the bridge down.

The report recommended inspecting certain parts of the bridge every two years as was the custom. But it specified the parts that had "high stress ranges" should be inspected every six months.

What's not known tonight is if those inspections were carried out as planned, or if budget cuts prevented them.

The 2001 inspection also noted that "The bridge's deck truss has not experienced any fatigue cracking, but it has many poor fatigue details on the main truss and the floor truss system. The research helped determine that the fatigue cracking of the deck truss is not likely, which means the bridge should not have any problems with fatigue cracking in the foreseeable future."

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Blogger Tim Ward said...


May I suggest, at this point, leaving the analysis to the professionals?

This is a huge catastrophe. There is a lot of suffering. Let's take the high road and take a time out from politics.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Michael M said...

Please note I am not analyzing the inspections and the repair delay decisions. However, the issue of what led to those is worthy of investigation and comment.

As a reporter who has covered many tragic events like this over the past three decades, my heart goes out to those who lost a dad, brother, mother, daughter,son, sister or other relative. In past tragedies the victims'families have always had the same request - "find out why this happened".

In this case, the politics of infrastructure dollars is certainly part of the equation and needs to be examined. Taking the high road is getting that information out there as soon as possible so people can take appropriate action.

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He is right Michael, this is not right to start trying to politicize and point fingers at this point. The tragedy has just happened. Brodkorp is not out there saying this is a democratic problem because the didn't pass the "lights on" bill; nor is he claiming that it was negligence by the Union construction workers. There are some times you need to look past politics and say "this is a Minnesota issue," as our Congressional delegation, and Governor have.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Michael M said...

The White House has placed responsibility for this squarely n the State of Minnesota:

White House press secretary Tony Snow said the Interstate 35W span rated
50 on a scale of 120 for structural stability.

"This doesn't mean there was a risk of failure, but if an inspection
report identifies deficiencies, the state is responsible for taking
corrective actions," he said. The bridge was 40 years old.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Grumpy Lion said...

Michael, this is absolutely the time to point fingers, if you will. If you have the resources and the investigative skills to dig into it, then by all means do it.

And if the trail leads to the politicians and the politics, then go get 'em. Push them now, while the issue is hot, while people are angry, because in a while the anger will cool and forgetting will begin, aided and abetted by the pols.

If I had lost someone in this tragedy, you can bet I'd want reporters digging deep.

7:19 AM  

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