Bridge Too Far
March 25, 2008 - 9:27am ET
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I'll never forget the day this past August when the most important bridge in Minneapolis crashed into the Mississippi River, killing twelve. We soon learned that Minnesota's conservative governor Tim Pawlenty had recently vetoed a transportation bill that would have been devoted to things like shoring up tottering bridges, because that bill would also have increased the gas tax. Governor Pawlenty performed the veto in front of a Grover Norquist-style anti-tax group, flourishing a giant prop "VETO" stamp and uttering of the foolhardy legislators providing for the maintenance of Minnesota's bridges and roads, How dumb can they be?"
I'll never forget, two weeks later, the response of Minneapolis's most prominent conservative propagandist, Mitch Pearlstein, making up a story that the veto had had nothing to do with the bridge's decrepitude, even though his own hometown paper had nailed that very case two days earlier.
Well, Minneapolis's I-35W bridge is back in the news. Here's something else you'll never forget: Nobody could have anticipated the breach in the levies...
MINNEAPOLIS (March 23) - Old photos of the Interstate 35W bridge show two steel connecting plates were visibly bent as early as 2003 - four years before the span collapsed into the Mississippi River, killing 13 people.
Minnesota Department of Transportation officials declined to say when the state first knew about the bending in the pieces of steel, called gusset plates.
Two photos, part of a report issued earlier this month by the National Transportation Safety Board, reveal slight bends in gusset plates that hold beams together at two separate connecting points. The plates are in areas believed to be among the first points of failure when the span collapsed....
Since the bridge's construction during the 1960s, the state highway department had increased weight on the bridge by adding a layer of concrete to the deck in 1977 and by installing concrete barriers in 1998. And the NTSB said last week that, at the time of the collapse, more than 191 tons of construction material had been piled over the bridge's weakest areas.
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