2007 Collapse Of I-35W Minneapolis Bridge Gets “Retro” Examination

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Retro Report is a non-profit news documentary organization that aims to “peel back back the layers of some of the most perplexing news stories of our past with the goal of encouraging the public to think more critically about current events and the media.”

Its most recent effort to find out “What really happened,” “How did these events change us” and “What are the lingering consequences that may affect our society to this day” is aimed at a tragic story familiar to most Minnesotans: The Aug. 1, 2007 collapse of the Interstate Hwy. 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, which killed 13 people, injured more than 100 and prompted a national discussion on the deteriorating condition of the country’s infrastructure.

The bridge documentary, which was published on The New York Times website last week, asks whether the country has learned the lessons it needs to learn from the collapse, which — less than seven years old — may be fading from memory. Even Minnesotans may need to have their memories jogged: The state is still struggling to maintain its infrastructure, and the issues raised by the disaster may be better understood better by people not so close to the scene of the tragedy.

Government officials — including former Gov. Tim Pawlenty — treated the collapse as an Act of God best responded to with candle-light vigils and prayers or — later — as the responsibility of long-gone officials who had the bridge built in the 1960s. Virtually ignored was the role of a “no new tax” political strategy advanced by Grover Norquist and national GOP leaders that raised fees on citizens for government services while starving critical programs of the funds needed for safe maintenance. The Retro Report, too, gives that issue scant attention, but it is one that needs to be kept in mind as you watch the video trip into the Wayback Machine — all the way back to 2007.

2 thoughts on “2007 Collapse Of I-35W Minneapolis Bridge Gets “Retro” Examination

  1. You got it WRONG on the 35W bridge collapse.
    Hee’s the real story.

    Immediate Release
    August 8, 2012
    Contact: Leslie Davis – 612-529-5253

    Five years ago the 35W Bridge in Minneapolis broke apart and collapsed killing 13 people and injuring more than 100.

    Leslie Davis, founder and president of the 29-year-old Earth Protector environmental watchdog group asked Hennepin County to investigate the cause of the bridge collapse.

    Davis says,
    “The State of Minnesota and the Federal Government are to blame for
    the bridge collapse and they should apologize and reimburse $57.4 million to
    URS engineering and $10.15 million to PCI construction.

    Earth Protector blames the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT), Federal Highway Administration (FHA), and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), for the collapse because they allowed the 4 lane bridge to be re-striped into 8 lanes, thus doubling the traffic and allowing heavier trucks to run on the outside edges of the bridge.

    The official version of the collapse is a fairy tale that blames undersized or worn gusset plates or a faulty beam. Earth Protector blames those who ordered all traffic going south on the bridge (toward downtown) to use the two outside lanes while the two inside lanes were being rebuilt. The outside lanes could not handle the weight and a piece broke off.

    Earth Protector’s evidence and testimony proves the bridge came apart when a lane of concrete roadway broke off, swung down like a flap and hit near the top of a beam extended up from one of four piers anchoring the bridge over the Mississippi River. (Picture 1 white arrow). The weight of the falling roadway twisted and cleaved off, toppling everything in its way (Picture 2 white arrow).

    Government officials wanted to avoid responsibility and possible criminal charges for ordering heavy traffic to the unsupported lanes on the outside edge of the bridge. This caused the road to give way and led to the collapse of the bridge and deaths of 13 people.

    It’s a matter of honesty, responsibility and liability. The bridge collapse was the fault of the State of Minnesota and the Federal Government, not the engineering or construction company. They should reimburse $57.4 million to URS and $10.15 million to PCI, Corp.

    1. The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) concluded the bridge collapsed because the U10 gusset plate failed. (Picture 1 for U10 location).

    NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker told Minnesota Public Radio on August
    5, 2007, that movement at the southern end of the bridge resulted from the
    collapse and was not the cause. That is totally wrong. The southern movement
    caused the collapse.

    2. Chris Messerly of the Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi law firm, was lead lawyer for a group of lawyers representing more than 100 victims and they hired Thornton Tomasetti, Inc., a worldwide engineering firm, to identify the cause of the bridge collapse.

    Tomasetti concluded that the cause was not the gusset plates but the failure of nearby beams known as the L9-11 chord. (Picture 1 for L9 location). Messerly told the Star Tribune on March 26, 2009, that Tomasetti engineers viewed the video of the collapse in making their determination but the video camera angle was not set to pick up the area of initial collapse. (Picture 2)

    3. The Gray Plant Mooty law firm was hired by the Minnesota legislature to
    conduct an independent investigation for them.

    Gray Plant Mooty says their task was not to identify the cause of the bridge collapse but to identify MNDOT’s oversight. However, they said the NTSB’s interim report identified gusset plate flaws for the bridge collapse.

    Gray Plant Mooty imbedded the gusset plate fairy tale in people’s minds and went on to say that their findings should be viewed as preliminary and subject to refinement.

    4. “A Computational Study of the I-35W Bridge Collapse” Final Report, October 2009 Published by the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies

    Evidence suggests that the collapse of the I-35W Bridge was initiated at the U10 gusset plate connections. (Picture 1 for U10 location).



  2. That bridge was vibrating every time I went over it. I says to myself, I says “Is this safe?”
    Now I know. Our infrastructure is aging and as Obama tries to pass legis to start fixing it, they shut him down. Idiots.