Other state bridges being inspectedby Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota Department of Transportation workers spent Friday inspecting three bridges in Minnesota. A fourth is scheduled for inspection, this weekeend. Gov. Tim Pawlenty ordered the move because the bridges are similar in construction to the I-35W bridge.
St. Cloud, Minn. — The Desoto Bridge, or the Highway 23 bridge as it's also called, crosses the Mississippi River just east of downtown St. Cloud. 30,000 cars and trucks use this bridge everyday. It's almost 900 feet long, and it was built in 1958. It's trussed deck-arch bridge is much like the 35W bridge and that's why it's being inspected.
Two workers hang below the bridge in a metal bucket on the end of what looks like an inverted crane. They navigate in and out of the bridge's metal support system.
The inspection caught the eye of Jason Stock, a 33-year-old high school physics teacher from Sauk Rapids.
"I was biking down here and going to take pictures of the scenery. I saw all the commotion on the bridge and I decided to take a few pictures of that too," Stock says.
Stock says he crosses this bridge about once a week.
"I guess it makes me feel pretty good that they're inspecting the bridge, but in same token they inspected the one in the Twin Cities and it went down," Stock says.
St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, whose city hall office is just a few blocks from the bridge, says people should see the bridge inspection as nothing but a good thing.
"All of the bridges in St. Cloud are inspected on an annual basis. They have maintenance on an annual basis. This is just an extra precaution, to inspect it one more time," Kleis says.
MnDOT officials say the Desoto Bridge was scheduled for an inspection later this month, so they moved that ahead a few weeks to meet Gov. Pawlenty's order. Pawlenty has asked that the results of the bridge inspections be on his desk by noon Monday.
The St. Cloud Times reports that the last inspection of this bridge in 2005 showed it's overall condition was adequate. The bridge was given a sufficiency rating of of 56.3 out of 100. Anything lower than 50 and a bridge is considered to be in need of replacement.
Another bridge just upstream between the towns of St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids is scheduled for an inspection on Saturday. The Sauk Rapids bridge is not a state bridge, but local officials asked for MnDOT's help with an inspection.
The bridge is 50 years old and considered structurally deficient. It earned a rating of 28 out of 100 the last time it was inspected. The old Sauk Rapids bridge will be torn down this fall when a new bridge opens about a quarter-of-a-mile upstream.
Bridge inspectors will be going over these structures in great detail, according to Cathy Clark with MnDOT.
"They're looking at the bridge deck, they're looking at the bridge girders and making sure that the bridge itself doesn't have any cracks. That is doesn't have anything that would compromise the structural integrity of that bridge. They also do ultrasound, just like we take pictures of our body, to make sure it's in good health. The same is true for the bridges and what they're looking at is the connection points," Clark says.
A bridge that crosses the St. Croix River near Osceola, Wisconsin, and one over the Kettel River near Sandstone are also having emergency inspections. U.S. Department of Transportation documents show that both of those bridges were inspected in 2005 and found to be not structurally deficient with ratings of 78 and 84 respectively.
The Mayor of Sandstone, Randy Atterbury, estimates that a few thousand cars cross the bridge near his town every day. He assumes most people in town didn't think about the bridge's safety until recently.
"Well now they probably are. I would say that people in town hope the do inspect it and make sure it's properly done," Atterbury says.
Atterbury admits bridge safety has been on his mind a lot lately. He crossed the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis just two hours before it collapsed.