Ten years ago today, the I-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis. Today, the state Department of Transportation says bridges are in much better shape – in part because legislators recognized a dire need.
MNDOT is in the final year of its $2.5 billion, 10-year program to inspect and repair bridges across the state.
Bart Andersen helped convince state lawmakers it was necessary. He was a bridge inspector at the time of the collapse and testified in the legislature and in Congress about known problems with infrastructure. Now he works for AFSCME Council 5.
“I don’t know that anybody could have predicted the tragedy that happened, but the bridge inspection reports were clear for several years that there were things that needed to be addressed with the bridge,” he explains.
Minnesota bridge safety program ending
Since the tragedy, MNDOT says it has implemented a more rigorous system of documenting bridge conditions. But as funding for the 10-year program runs out, there are serious questions about how bridges and other infrastructure stay safe.
Andersen says the need to address these questions is real.
“There’s a lot of projects that aren’t getting done in a timely manner,” he says. “And what the department really needs is a long-term funding plan, because one-time money that gets thrown at the department, it doesn’t have the impact that a long-term funding plan would.”
The 10-year program paid for the construction of 100 new bridges, including replacement of major spans in St. Paul, Red Wing and St. Cloud. When the I-35W bridge collapsed August 1, 2007, 13 people died and 145 were injured.