Minneapolis bridge collapse: blog roundup

The folks at Metblogs Minneapolis have been gathering first-person accounts, photos, video, and other material documenting the collapse of a bridge yesterday that killed at least four, and has dozens missing. Link to a much-updated post.

The NYT blog The Lede is covering online reactions here: Link. WikiNews article is here. Image above: Tomruen. Flickr photos tagged "minneapolis bridge collapse": Link.

BB reader Paul says,

My friend Noah lives just beside the stretch of interstate 35w that collapsed last night in Minneapolis and was one of the first to get to the scene. He shot some amazing, harrowing photos: Link.
(thanks, Tim K, Sean Bonner)

BB reader Brian says,

As a resident of MN, I was appalled last night when I had the local news on and there was someone on there blaming the bridge collapse on MN not having raised the gas tax since 1988. I couldn't believe it! During this time of crisis, they bring politics into it and are trying to push for a gas tax!

The "bridge was given the OK sign after MNDOT investigated it twice in the last five years. So whether we put a 100 billion dollars in transportation or 50 dollars it would not have went to this particular bridge. So money spent on welfare (mostly federal) or light rail (also mostly federal) or even cash refunds from the governor would not have affected this because MNDOT made the assessment that the bridge was fine." Link.

BB reader Ana says,
My friend Amber's roller derby team member took these photos. She was on the part of the bridge deck that landed in the water.
Muddler says,
Your readers may find these pictures of the rusty underside of the 35W bridge in Minneapolis, taken just weeks before the collapse, of great interest. At the very least, these photos give readers a much better understanding of the support structure that used to support the roadway.
Pops says,
As BB reader Brian said, MN-DOT gave the OK for the bridge. I don't know if this is necessarily true, but what I do know is that they failed to intervene. One of the early Reuters reports quoted a DOT source saying that a 2006 report found the bridge suffering from stress cracks and bent girders. Curiously, the quote was removed in later revisions of the story, after Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said no structural defects were found in neither 2005 nor 2006. The local Star Tribune newspaper linked to a 2001 report that was already noting stress cracks. It additionally reported that work was being done on the bridge -- but on the surface. Now, an AP report has the White House saying a 2005 report had the bridge "rated 50 on a scale of 100 for structural stability and was classified as 'structurally deficient'." In my mind, the real question is: if issues were raised about this segment (which the DOT says services 200,000 cars daily) a while back ago, why was the work being done on the surface and not on the structural stability? Link.
Corey Anderson says,
More live blogging and news coverage from Minneapolis alt-weekly City Pages about the I-35 bridge collapse: Link.
David Calkins says,
This is a traffic webcam of the bridge which recorded its collapse as it happens. It's there one second, and then just drops almost as a whole.
Anonymous says,
A fascinating list of bridge disasters through history, including one caused by a clown and one caused by marching troops: Link.


  1. Maintenance

    What do our bridges, schools, health care, and safe city streets have in common?

    Yesterday, Cathy and I walked the tenth avenue bridge to get a sense of the scale of the collapsed freeway bridge.

    It is the biggest disaster I have been face to face with in my lifetime.

    As we walked I felt a sense of reverence for my community and a great sadness for the dead and injured. It was a moving experience to walk the quarter of a mile of twisted steel and concrete laying in the river.

    This is OUR city, we deserve safe streets, good schools, and bridges that don’t fall into the river.

    Community infrastructure is important. If our bridges are failing, it’s probable that our schools, court systems, child protection, and health care systems are getting the same mistreatment. As a CASA child protection volunteer, I believe this to be true.

    As a long time student of public policy, business person, and pragmatic human being, I am convinced that listening to experts and completing their minimal maintenance recommendations is exponentially more cost effective than gambling on the savings of not doing simple maintenance.

    The following few paragraphs should provide a logical arguement for this thought. First the facts:

    Minneapolis City Pages September 5th Economy in Freefall article quoted Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty as estimating the additional costs of gas and extra miles due to the bridge collapse at $400,000 per day, or $146,000,000 over the next year.

    Any accurate calculation of additional costs to drivers must include at least a fair minimum amount for the 144,000 cars per day that used this bridge each day that now must find other routes.

    Forty eight cents per mile is the IRS allowance for automobile deductions and this does not include the headache factor of clogged traffic and longer commutes that I seem to be experiencing.

    Assuming an average of ten additional miles for each car each way (some of us take the longer 694/494 route around town (which is depending on east or west between thirteen and eighteen additional miles bypassing the city on freeways, others drive fewer extra miles through downtown city streets or the 280 detour).

    Multiplying an average ten miles each way for 144,000 cars per day equals 2.8 million miles per day times the IRS 48 cents equals $1,382,000 per day, or almost four times the governor’s estimate.

    Hoping that it only takes one year to finish the bridge, multiply 1.382,000 times 365 and it adds to a little over five hundred million dollars in hard costs to drivers for these detours. Eighteen months bridge construction time would equal over seven hundred and fifty million dollars in hard driver costs.

    With no extra consideration for the extra ten to twenty minutes at each end of our commute we can honestly call this the hard cost of the bridge collapse.

    Add this to the approximately two hundred million dollar estimated cost of a new bridge, and the sure to be substantial lawsuit settlements for wrongful death and injury from the victims of this disaster, and some minimal value for the businesses that are failing because of their new inaccessibility, and a billion dollars becomes a realistic estimate of the total hard costs of not maintaining our bridge.

    New York’s 20 year veteran bridge engineer Samuel Schwartz (NYT OP-ED 8.13.07) estimated that 178,000 dollars annual maintainance per year per bridge would keep all of his states bridges in pristine condition (“all bridges guaranteed never to collapse”, MINE).

    Compare 178,000 dollars to the one billion dollars price tag of not maintaining this bridge and you can begin to see the actual cost of our anti tax policymaking that has won the hearts and minds of so many Minnesotans.

    It appears to be up to five hundred times more expensive to ignore the advice of qualified people (real engineering experts paid high salaries) than it was to gamble on the small savings to be gained by ignoring their advice.

    Even if we had spent $178,000 each year for twenty years, the total is $3,560,000 (996 million dollars less than a billion dollars).

    Similarly, in the case of human beings it is much more cost effective to attend to the needs of a child than waiting until disaster strikes.

    Trying to resurrect a criminalized juvenile or adult with ten to twenty years of serious mental health problems is extremely difficult.

    I make a very similar financial calculation for failing to help children in child protection systems to receive the help they need to make it in public schools. Traumatized children cost our community a fortune when we ignore them and wait until they are mentally unstable adults to deal with them.

    Experts will tell you that the time to help abused and neglected (traumatized) children is when you first have the opportunity. It is exponentially less expensive than waiting until they hurt someone.

    Our bridge failed the majority of its safety inspections over the last twenty years. Early and sustained annual maintenance would have been the way to save money, lives, and trauma.

    Bridges are designed to a factor of ten times their estimated strength needs. Ask any engineer about the significance of a bridge falling down. The Minneapolis bridge collapse was a monstrous failure.

    It is not the engineers that ruined the bridge. It’s not the teachers that wrecked the schools, or social workers that are not taking care of children in child protection. These are the people doing their jobs with the resources and support at their disposal.

    The bridge collapse was the direct result of the people that made the policies, the same people that have been ignoring the engineers and the experts that know what was needed for systems and infrastructure to stay in working order.

    The same policy makers that are responsible for the declining conditions of our schools, transportation, courts, bridges, child protection systems and safe city streets.

    Policy makers that point fingers and blame others instead of admitting their own failures and especially those that are not working for long term workable solutions to our infrastructure problems should be tarred and feathered (at least run out of office).

    Would someone please print a large “YOUR GOVERNMENT AT WORK” sign and post it on the tenth avenue bridge to be seen by the thousands of us poor dumb saps as we drive by the billion dollar fiasco that to this point hasn’t been any policymaker’s fault?

    Who voted for that person anyway? Would you please vote for someone else next time?

    And would someone please tell the anti tax people that they are not saving any money by letting bridges fall into the river and at risk children to fall into our courts and justice system. It costs exponentially more money to let things fall apart than it does to take care of them.

    I am also a spokesman for at risk children http://www.invisiblechildren.org/weblog

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