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I-35W Bridge

Imagine the terror of plummeting 63 feet into the Mississippi for a moment. The bridge underneath you has given you a few moments of warning as it pitched to one side, and then you are suspended in the air before that sickening splash. The water comes in as you know this is it. If you are conscious, you probably have only enough time to panic as you start to realize this is the end.

About a dozen families are contemplating these final moments of their loved ones, grieving not just the loss but the horror that was faced alone and afraid. The blank stares they give the teevee cameras are nothing more than a reflection of the horror that those they loved were thrown into. The emptiness must be unimaginable.

This is what our state government’s dysfunctionality has given them. It kills people.

I am ready to give out blame for the collapse of the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis because I have been heavily involved in the planning of many road projects in Saint Paul. I know how we do things.

The problem starts with our failure to raise the gasoline tax since 1988, which means that we have lost 50% of our revenue to inflation. That is what we have to manage our roads. One way that we have chosen to cope with this loss of revenue is to contract out nearly every function of highway planning, construction, and inspection. The state DOT is a revolving door of consultants who go from project to project, always having a direct vested interest in making projects bigger but lacking any vested interest in protecting the infrastructure.

Consider this report from 2001, done by the University of Minnesota Civil Engineering Department:

Click to access bridges200110.source.prod_affiliate.2.pdf

Page 13 (bottom) notes that:

“Concern about fatigue cracking is heightened by a lack of redundancy in the main truss system. Only two planes of main truss support eight lanes of traffic. The truss is determinate and the joints are theoretically pinned. Therefore, if one member were severed by a fatigue crack, that plane of the main truss would, theoretically, collapse.”

Sounds serious? Now consider that a 2005 inspection found stress cracks were so severe that they were asking contractors – yes, asking contractors, since they didn’t have the expertise in-house – what they might do about it:


Didn’t they realize that this could result in catastrophic failure? Probably not. The report was done by one consultant, the inspection by another. Yet another was asked how to fix it. This whole time, no one at MnDOT was actually in charge of the bridge and was able to get in there and do what needed to be done. There is no reason to believe that the revolving door of consultants produced anything other than a few large piles of paper that went largely unread.

Who’s job was it to prevent the collapse of the I-35W Bridge? Apparently it was no one’s job. So it came down. This was an engineering failure, yes, but it was ultimately a failure of management – a failure of people.

Our government is so sick right now that people are being killed by its incompetence. I happen to believe that Thomas Jefferson was right when he proclaimed that it is our right, our duty, to remove this government and replace it with another. A government that subjects people to terror like we have seen in Minneapolis must be changed or overthrown if we are to call ourselves a free people.

2 thoughts on “I-35W Bridge

  1. Pingback: Reboot « Barataria – the work of Erik Hare

  2. Pingback: A Bridge Too Far « Barataria – the work of Erik Hare

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