Posted On: August 20, 2007 by Mark R. McKenna

Minnesota State Officials Knew of Bridge Collapse Risk

A startling article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune by Tony Kennedy and Paul McEnroe reveals that Minnesota state officials knew that the I-35 bridge was at risk of collapse:

Internal MnDOT documents reviewed by the Star Tribune reveal that last year bridge officials talked openly about the possibility of the bridge collapsing -- and worried that it might have to be condemned.

The documents provide the first look inside MnDOT's decision-making process as engineers weighed benefits and risks, wrestling with options to prevent what they believed was a remote but real possibility of the eight-lane freeway bridge failing.

Their concerns were not generalized, documents show. The San Francisco-based consultant, URS Inc., identified 52 crucial steel box beams deemed most susceptible to cracking. URS also had a specific recommendation that 24 of the 52 members be reinforced while the remainder would be kept on a special watch. Video of the Aug. 1 collapse being examined by the National Transportation Safety Board shows the bridge first falling on the south end over its shoreline pier -- a section of the superstructure where eight suspect beams were specifically tagged for reinforcing.

State officials failed to take action to reinforce the bridge because of concerns about cost and fears they might find problems severe enought to force condemnation of the bridge. The state should be liable for this gross negligence, which has resulted in such tragedy. Unfortunately, state tort immunities may protect the state officials from any negligence claims.

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