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Monday, August 06, 2007

I-35W Update: Is MnDOT To Blame?

MnDOT is the acronym for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The Sunday St. Paul Pioneer Press ran an eye-opening story about possible design flaws causing the collapse of the Minneapolis Bridge.

The story is HERE, but often the St. Paul newspaper pulls stories after a day or so and some of their stories require that you sign up - free - in order to read them.

Here is the story in its entirety, (emphasis mine):

    A state Department of Transportation inspector who might know the collapsed Interstate 35W bridge better than anyone is pointing his finger at the bridge's outdated design.

    "We need to look at the design. It's all in the design," Kurt Fuhrman said during an interview Saturday at his Rosemount home. "I'm not a designer. I'm an inspector."

    Fuhrman, 52, had done "fracture-critical" inspections on the bridge every year except one since 1994.

    He spoke reluctantly. He is aware that MnDOT's bridge-inspection process has come under scrutiny as everyone, including federal investigators, struggles to figure out why the structure fell into the Mississippi on Wednesday.

    Fuhrman said he doesn't know what caused the deadly failure. But he said he suspects it's connected to the design of the bridge's two main east-west trusses.

    "The two members were fracture critical. If one fails, there's nothing to support the other," he said, adding that the 40-year-old bridge was built using old national guidelines.

    "We don't design bridges like that anymore," he said.

    Fuhrman is one of a group of MnDOT inspectors who conducted the yearly fracture-critical inspections of the I-35W bridge, MnDOT reports show. "Fracture critical" is an engineering term referring to the specific parts of a bridge whose failure would result in the bridge's collapse.

    Besides the annual fracture-critical inspections, Fuhrman also conducted the four most recent annual bridge inspections, along with MnDOT colleague Vance Desens, records show. Desens couldn't be reached Saturday.

    In the 2006 fracture-critical inspection report, Fuhrman and the inspection team recommended replacing the bridge, saying "eventual replacement of the structure would be preferable." If replacement was delayed, the bridge should be redecked, the report said. That redecking was under way when the bridge failed.

    The bridge had been categorized as "structurally deficient" since 1990 because of the poor 4 rating, on a scale of 0 to 9, of its superstructure - the overall network of green steel beams and concrete beneath the bridge's deck but above the water. The bridge was given an overall sufficiency rating of 50 percent, meaning it was time to consider replacing it.

    The bridge, which opened in 1967, was designed by Sverdrup & Parcel, a now-defunct engineering firm once headquartered in Maryland Heights, Missouri. Sverdrup & Parcel was founded in 1928 by Leif J. Sverdrup and his engineering professor at the University of Minnesota, John Ira Parcel.

    The company built the Bridge of the Americas that crosses the Panama Canal, the Superdome in New Orleans and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. The company is perhaps best known for its transportation work.

    Sverdrup also designed at least two other bridges for MnDOT, including the Fort Road Bridge over the Mississippi near Fort Snelling and the Hastings High Bridge.

    Leif Sverdrup, who enjoyed some fame during World War II for rapidly building landing strips in the Pacific theater, died in 1976. In 1999, Sverdrup & Parcel merged into Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. in Pasadena.

    Jacobs Engineering couldn't be reached Saturday.

    MnDOT officials defended the agency's bridge-safety record Saturday and said they won't speculate about what caused the disaster.

    "To speculate whether it's a design issue, a corrosion issue ... it's just too early," said Bob McFarlin, assistant to the commissioner for policy and public affairs at MnDOT. "Let the NTSB do its work."

    MnDOT has an outstanding bridge program, McFarlin said, which is rated high nationally.

    "That's why this is so baffling to us," he said.

Other updates include:

NTSB Says bridge shift wasn't cause of collapse; TwinCities.com:

    The apparent shift of the southern portion of the Interstate 35W bridge is a red herring, federal investigators say.

    "We don't believe the southern portion is where the accident began," said Mark Rosenker, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, during a Saturday news conference.


    Given that, investigators will turn their focus to the northern portion. After that, they'll begin looking at the center span.

The story also notes that five people are confirmed dead and 98 [total] sent to hospitals. Eight are believed still missing.

NPR reports that MnDOT can begin pulling cars and bridge debris out of the river.

On a side note, over three quarters of a billion dollars has been spent on Light Rail which runs only from the Mall of America to downtown Minneapolis. That money alone would have built two, perhaps three (four?), state-of-the-art bridges. But no, Twin Cities Liberal Elites had to have a Light Rail system that will never pay for itself, nor will it ever break even financially. And this pathetic and costly "trolley" had its primary cheerleader - a man by the name of Jesse Ventura, the former wrestler turned one-term Minnesota Idiot Governor.

Meanwhile, The 2006 Transportation Amendment puts 40% of sales tax revenues on motor vehicles into public transit. Once again the Liberal Elites raid funds for highway, road and bridge maintenance for projects like Light Rail and other non-road and non-bridge projects.

If you're looking to lay blame for the collapse of the Minneapolis I-35W bridge, blame the Liberals. They're being awfully quiet on their highways, roads and bridges fund-raiding these days. Huh, I wonder why...why is that?


No. No. No. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. The bridge collapse is all the fault of George Bush and the Iraq War. Design, corrosion, gravity or anything else had nothing to do with it. If John Kerry had been elected president, the bridge would not have collapsed. If Al Gore had been elected president, the bridge could have been built with Cheese Whiz and it would still be standing. Plus there is no doubt that global warming was a factor and George Bush is responsible for all global warming. The evidence is incontrovertible. Congress should immediately appropriate one billion dollars to investigate the Bush administration's role in causing the bridge to collapse. The three hundred or so current probes into the Bush administration are not enough. We need more!
Cheese Whiz? I thought they were using Velveeta or Play Doh. I guess I learned something today.
Hey did anyone stop to think that maybe the bridge was designed for the amount of traffic back then. That now idiots won't use LIGHT RAIL or PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION offered, because they prefer being cut off, road construction, idiots on cell phones while driving, and all in all being pissed off most of the time. Take the spin above, does this person seem like someone you would want to be friends with, blame, blame, blame. Maybe you should take a look inward. How many times do you use your horn in traffic?
Hi Dawn. The bridge probably designed for traffic specs for when it was built, but - as any bridge or road constructed decades ago - improvements are made to cope with growth.

I think your argument fails on the reasons you give for people enjoying being cut off in traffic, etc etc, in your attempts to prop up public transportation. Light rail is a failure financially. It will never pay for itself, ever. The money MN has put into light rail would have been far better spent on adding more buses and more bus routes - that I would have favored. Light rail costs are insanely excessive to the taxpayer.

I don't need to look inward because I know where I stand on the issues. How about you?
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