Commentaries

Your Voice: Commentaries: Minneapolis Bridge Collapse
A busy highway bridge that spans the Mississippi River just northeast of Minneapolis collapsed during rush hour on Wednesday August 1, 2007, sending dozens of cars, tons of concrete and twisted metal crashing into the water.

MPR is producing a timeline of public commentaries, reactions, and questions here. Submit your commentary.




09:04 a.m. August 7, 2007

Suggestion: Rebuild the bridge as a monument.

While I absolutely understand the need to rebuild the bridge as quickly as possible, I think it is imperative to build a structure that is not obsolete as soon as it is built. I would like to see something much less utilitarian.

It should be a monument to those who lost their lives, and a landmark for Minneapolis. I would like to see a soaring structure with the capability of light rail incorporated.

Michael Murray-John
Minneapolis, Minn.




05:57 p.m. August 6, 2007

What's all this flap about the head of Mn/DOT? [MPR News: Bridge collapse arms Molnau critics]

Why do we demand professional expertise from politically appointed department heads/commissioners? What are their credentials, anyway? Specifically, does [Carol] Molnau hold a doctorate in structural engineering? I rather doubt it.

Until this process is changed (and it should be!), we cannot expect more from people than they are qualified to deliver. Oh well, the next election will change who heads any state department when the governor appoints whomever he/she pleases to these high profile jobs.

Rob Richert
Faribault, Minn.




04:16 p.m. August 6, 2007

The I-35W Bridge collapse could have been much worse. Other than the school bus load of children nearly being killed, there were cruise boats loaded with passengers about to pass, or had just passed under the bridge. One story that seems to have been overlooked is the train under the bridge that was crushed. Was the train moving? If so, what did the train crew experience? What was in those covered hoppers anyway? If the rail car had been a tank car filled with propane, natural gas or some other hazardous material, it would have destroyed a very large area and would have killed a far larger number of people. Was there a possibility that the railroad routes such loads on those tracks? Talk about an accident that could have been a lot worse.

Gary Setter
Dearborn, Mich.




02:36 p.m. August 6, 2007

Questioning the restrictions: I don't understand why they are trying to block people from viewing the bridge. I understand that people should be kept out of the way and in safe locations. But it seems that they have gone way overboard with this.

Only CNN and media which are for profit companies seem to be able to get the exclusive right to look that the bridge. Why can't I go on the 10th Ave bridge? Has this bridge been damaged?

Chris Henze
Lakeville, Minn.




09:51 a.m. August 6, 2007

Road salt rots steel.

It is well known road salt rots and weakens steel. It is well known that our bridges get heavier applications of salt than our roadways, since they tend to ice up faster than roads. Recently a few bridges have been equipped with new automatic deicers that limit deicer applications to exactly when needed.

Why don't we use other less steel and concrete degrading chemicals? I hope the answer is not cost.

Bruce Johnson
Stacy, Minn.




02:42 p.m. August 5, 2007

I am an engineer living in Bolivia. It would appear that pile at the river edge has tilted south. This would push against the section over the river. But the north section would collapse first, since its pier support has gone or been twisted. In this process it would pull down the further section to the north. The vertical support over the pier that is bent to the north. Then the river section would collapse in essence pushed down as the support failed at the pier so note the horizontal beams that have snapped in tension.

Also note the culvert at the pier edge that in heavy rain as noted the day before would eddy the pier structure, a common occurrence in the rivers here in Bolivia is movement of the piers by eddy currents. Most bridge failures are at the piers. Just my opinion that all are looking at the bridge not the support as the pier needs to stand.

Antony Ivansmith
Cochabamba, Bolivia




11:15 a.m. August 5, 2007

I believe it is time for the Twins to step up and help the city that has given them so much. I realize that they postponed the groundbreaking of their new stadium for this, but they have a perfectly good stadium to play in. They should focus on the people and what is truly needed now and postpone their new stadium until the bridge is rebuilt.

The new stadium has a cost of $390 million, and infrastructure and finance costs would bring it to $522 million. How did the Twins raise money for this new stadium? Mostly they didn't. They have to pay 1/3 the price of the stadium ($125 million) and the rest is being paid for by a 0.15% sales tax increase in Hennepin County. (All these figures are coming from wikipedia)

That means that the residents of Hennepin County are shouldering the rest of the cost of the new stadium, roughly $265 million. Does anyone see something wrong with this? We are apparently in need of at least $100 million more dollars, and here we have $265 million already raised by the tax payers.

Justin Loutsch
Minneapolis, Minn.




10:55 a.m. August 5, 2007

The head of the NTSB better look at the security camera video. If you look at the security camera video of the bridge going down you can see the 10th Avenue Bridge to the right. This means the video camera is looking about due north.

Clearly the south portion of the bridge goes down, then the dust settles and about 8 seconds later the next north span goes down starting with the north part of that span.

Given the lapse of seconds in time clearly visible I don't know how they can clear the south part as not being the initial failure the whole mess.

The more interesting question is why did the north end next segment to fail drop first at the north end of that segment.

Dave Johnson
Mason City, IA.




10:53 a.m. August 5, 2007

Build bridges not stadiums! The new Twins stadium cost is about $522 million. The cost to rebuild the bridge is perhaps about the same.

As taxpayer, I would like to see our state fix our bridge with the proposed stadium money. Ironically, I-35W collapsed the day before the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Twins stadium... might be a sign that our county needs to fix something.

Lauren Nicole Rusnak
Minneapolis, Minn.




09:48 p.m. August 4, 2007

Is it possible a small earthquake caused it or temperature changes caused cracking or over expansion and over-stressed the structure? [In my opinion] the bridge had no support in the middle of it, and too much traffic.

Starla Tennison
Saginaw, Tex.




02:21 p.m. August 4, 2007

I'm sure that many of the survivors of the collapse will be scarred for life. Now try to imagine their sheer terror when they suddenly realized what was happening. Keeping that in mind, now try to imagine what our young men and women are facing in Iraq. Spending not one or two tours there but sometimes three like the young man who took our daughter to their high school prom in 2002. Some of our troops are going out on patrol four or five times a day knowing before hand that they may not return alive.

The tragic loss of life on the bridge will remain with all of us but lets use this in a way to greater appreciate what our troops are facing in Iraq. The number of people lost in this horrific accident are lost every day in Iraq. As a Vietnam era veteran I don't express these views lightly.

My sincerest thoughts are with all the survivors and the families of those who lost a loved-one.

Bruce P. Carden
Orrville, OH.




01:08 p.m. August 4, 2007

I really don't know why MPR and other media organizations are concentrating on the state's inspection or the state's funding. Our basic needs and rights were violated.

We have a Federal Government to protect our Bill of Rights. 80% of the funding for interstate highways comes from and should come from the Federal Government. Safe streets and highways are a basic right. Our Federal infrastructure is crumbling.

We need to stop spending money in Iraq and take care of our country. I'm angry because people from my state had to die and suffer because of a Federal government that cares more about a useless war than it's own people.

Judy Ellis
Duluth, Minn.




11:56 a.m. August 4, 2007

I am skeptical about Mn/DOT giving us the true picture about bridges in Minnesota.

It seems to me if a bridge is structurally deficient, action should be taken sooner rather than later. We have witnessed a terrible tragedy because structurally deficient did not spur Mn/DOT to aggressively solve the deficient areas of concern. I would hope we now realize we need to adequately fund our infrastructure. There are a lot issues Mn/DOT needs to solve so we can have safe bridges, less traffic congestion, safe roads, and confidence in Mn/DOT again.

I, for one, hope the governor and the legislature do not let their political agendas get in the way of sound decisions needed after the bridge collapse. An increase in my taxes is not an issue to me if I know my family is safe on Minnesota roads.

Duane Fancher
Burnsville, Minn.




11:10 a.m. August 4, 2007

This is why we need to contribute our fair share. The bridge collapse in the Twin Cities was an avoidable disaster.

At early stages of the investigation, we have learned that decisions were made to put off maintenance of the bridge. Decision-makers are facing increasingly difficult decisions about our aging infrastructure because of increasingly tight state and federal budgets.

As American taxpayers who depend on safe infrastructure to live, we should not complain about taxes that go to maintaining safe transportation and roadways, or other infrastructure. We are paying our fair share to live in a safe society.

Melissa Malott
Madison, Wisc.




11:06 a.m. August 4, 2007

Wondering about upgrades, maintenance: How many times and how often has this bridge been resurfaced. Was the bridge deck always as wide as we see it now? I think it was first built as 4 lanes wide, then widened/upgraded sometime in the 80s or 90s.

Tom Munson
Golden Valley, Minn.




12:15 a.m. August 4, 2007

I live in Tampa, Florida, but I have long listened to Minnesota Public Radio and feel a real connection to the city. It's in this context that I feel so connected to this tragedy.

I grieve for all those who were lost, hope the best for those still in the hospital or are injured, and all those affected. I just want you all to know that there are others out there who, whether we've even been to Minneapolis or not, we truly deeply care about all of you and are keeping you in our thoughts. It appears as if emergency response and the mayor, governor and all government officials are doing all they can and have done very well in light of such a sudden emergency situation.

If there is anything that outsiders such as myself can do to help, please let us know. You are all in my thoughts.

Denise Aguero
Tampa, Fla.




11:06 p.m. August 3, 2007

The commentary on the program that has been developed and will be used in the analysis of the bridge collapse refers to finite element analysis. Finite element analysis is a technique which uses finite element methods, a branch of mathematics developed in the 40's by Richard Courant. It is only the applications of this method by the developer of the computer program mentioned on your broadcasts that are new, neither the mathematics nor the phrase "finite element analysis."

Wojciech Komornicki
Roseville, Minn.

[Editor: Wojciech Komornicki is a Professor of Mathematics at Hamline University]




06:23 p.m. August 3, 2007

Why only inspect bridges of a similar design? Instead of ordering the inspection of all bridges in Minnesota with a design similar to the I-35 Bridge, shouldn't we spend our time and money on inspecting (and fixing!) bridges that need repair or pose the greatest safety risk?

The decision to inspect all bridges that are similar in design to the I-35 sounds to me like an order sent from the State Public Relations department rather than a truly concerned government.

Gretchen Brant
Hopkins, Minn.




04:31 p.m. August 3, 2007

When I first saw the news on television about the collapse of the I-35W Bridge it was a shock to me but not a surprise.

We have a crumbling infrastructure across this country and no leadership in our political infrastructure to solve our problems. What do lawyers and accountants (the ones in leadership positions creating legislation across our land) know about bridges, roads, utilities, and even teaching children in the schools.

Our system of government along with our money is a fiction. In our fiction of government no one has responsibility, so no one is accountable to the people.

To prove this takes the case of the I-35W Bridge. It has been known through inspections and studies that the structure was deficient. So what happened? Who is responsible for not taking corrective action? Since everyone involved with the inspections and studies are agents of the fiction we call our government, there is no one to blame - no one to hold accountable for all the loss of life, and damage to the economy.

I think this calls for a re-assessment of what kind of people we want to fill these positions in our government and how to hold them accountable for negligence and corruption, when it comes to managing the public assets.

I have seen a trend over the years of public officials forgetting that they work for the people - forgetting that when they are working in the service of the people - the interest of the people comes before their own interests. This is what public service is about.

I see a massive lack of leadership when it comes to public service including elected officials.

There could be a silver lining in this unfortunate tragedy, in recognizing that our public infrastructure, freeways, bridges, water systems, sewer systems, school systems, and much more across this great land is in dire need of rebuilding and improvement for future generations; and only public awareness and action can make the changes necessary to fix these problems.

If there is no public outcry and action then after the news fades out, it will be the same ole, same ole, status quo.

Conrad Wareham
Kailua-Kona, HI.




10:03 a.m. August 3, 2007

I have a couple of observations about the construction being a factor in the collapsing of the bridge because I live close to it and took that way home from work sometimes.

Lately I haven't taken that route because of the traffic congestion and construction. The bridge was an 8 lane freeway shut down to 2 - one going North and the other South - the other blocked off 6 lanes were lined with construction equipment, portable toilets and workers pounding and jack-hammering on it day and night. I had to role my windows up because of the dust and loud noise.

Another thing my husband and I witnessed was seeing barricades around certain areas underneath because debris was falling from the bridge onto the ground below.

I am not an expert on construction or bridge stability at all but if the bridge structure was in any way vunerable i'm sure all of that hammering and pounding didn't help the stability factor.

Kris Baillie
Minneapolis, Minn.




09:22 a.m. August 3, 2007

Around July 5th I stopped my bike and tried to see where the workers were. The sound of hammering on the steel structure was very audible. I could not see the workers or their lights, being it was 5:45 am approximately. I was concerened about vandals, but left thinking it was road work. Was I listening to fatigue?

Bruce Lemmons
Minneapolis, Minn.




07:58 a.m. August 3, 2007

Suggestion for rescue efforts: Wrecking yards have cranes with large magnets on a long boom. Why can't you get a couple of those out to the bridge site and lift the vehicles out of the river? Just a possibility.

John and Gertrude Fly
Visalia, Calif.




11:29 p.m. August 2, 2007

Only responsible government could have prevented this disaster.

For years we have increasingly placed our future as a community, a state and a nation into the hands of people who believe that government is a negative force and should be suspected, limited and starved in favor of private initiative and the profit incentive in almost every quarter of our public lives. This tragedy is only one very stunning example of what happens when few leaders have the good of the public at heart, when the government whose purpose it is to make it possible for us to remain safe and to keep our common endeavors functioning is viewed as the enemy rather than as a primary force for public good.

No one but a well-intentioned, well-functioning federal and state government could have prevented the bridge collapse yesterday. But the priorities of the state and national leaders we have elected and supported for years have been focused on supporting private progress, private wealth and the primacy of the successful individual, rather than utilizing government to build a foundation upon which we all can hope to be safe and do well. We all need bridges that do not plunge into rivers, and we all need a government that does not ignore that need in favor of allowing individuals and corporations to avoid taxes and escape reasonable government regulation.

I hope we begin soon to realize what we have given up in our mad pursuit of lower taxes and freedom from government intervention.

Karen Seay
Edina, Minn.




10:58 p.m. August 2, 2007

In the horrible wake of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, I would like to offer a suggestion on re-route truck traffic temporarily.

I, myself, am originally from the Twin Cities area. I now live in Duluth, but travel to the Twin Cities very frequently. I am an over-the-road truck driver, and my job frequently takes me through or too the Twin Cities area.

There is a small stretch of Interstate 35E that is restricted to truck traffic. I am certain that if trucks were temporarily allowed on this stretch of road that some of the congestion could be diminished.

Interstate 35W was the only straight main thorough way for trucks as they had to pass through the Twin Cities area without going majority out of their way.

As a truck driver, you want to take the shortest route possible, because you do not get paid for extra miles you may have to travel.

Cindy Sorenson
Duluth, Minn.




06:15 p.m. August 2, 2007

I am so terribly sorry about the bridge accident there. I have been reading about bridges, and noted that the Brooklyn Bridge was built 6 times stronger than it needed to be. There were many accidents associated with the building of it, but it is so strong and still standing.

There must not be shortcuts in anything associated with the building of any bridge. Please remember the Brooklyn Bridge when a new bridge is built to replace the one which has fallen. Build it at least 6 times stronger than it needs to be.

Phyllis Petras
Sacramento, Calif.




05:35 p.m. August 2, 2007

I heard of the Engebretsen family's situation and have been frantically combing the Internet for updates ever since. My heart cries out for the anguish they must be feeling about not knowing where Mrs Engebretsen is right now. I am hoping and praying she will show up somewhere.

Neil Singh
Phoenix, Ariz.


[Editor: August 3, 2007. Sherry Engebretsen, 60, of Shoreview, did not survive the bridge collapse. MPR News: Remembering the victims]



04:06 p.m. August 2, 2007

My best friend from St. Paul called me shortly after the tragedy was reported. She said at that time, five people were killed and many more were unaccounted for. We discussed how many times in the last twelve days I had traveled over this very same bridge. Sometimes four, sometimes six times, I had hauled the ugly little cream-colored PT Cruiser rental across that span of impending doom. The thought of all those poor souls has given me great pause and gratitude. In my lifetime, I have been exposed to scud missiles, drowning, electrocution, an airplane accident, a motorcycle accident, a horse stomping, and three close calls with death in cars, asphyxiation, and a chemical warfare poisoning. It is by the Grace of God that I did not happen to be at that awful place at that awful time. It is with much reverence and appreciation that I pray for the individuals and the families who experienced this tragedy. May they find comfort and peace in knowing those of us offer our support and care during such a difficult time.

Andrea Campbell
Hawkinsville, Ga.




04:03 p.m. August 2, 2007

Regarding inspection methodology: The bridge that collapsed was inspected by three organizations? Inspection tests must be tested for validity and reliability. Depending on what happens with this test, all bridges may need to be re-inspected with the new test.

Jeff Cook
Saint Paul, Minn.




02:45 p.m. August 2, 2007

1960's bridge technology not good enough? While trying to get information on the bridge tragedy last night, I ran across a 2005 bridge study by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program that mentioned our bridges built before 1970 were not constructed using modern fatigue design provisions.

Do we have an entire class or era of bridges in this country that we should be concerned with, especially when one receives less than favorable inspection results as in the case of the I-35W Bridge?

Adam Beck
St. Louis Park, Minn.




02:32 p.m. August 2, 2007

Much has changed since 1967. Since 1967, the type of traffic has most likely changed a great deal in the Twin Cities. I wonder how increased traffic loads and larger, heavier, vehicles (SUV's etc) contributed to this?

Bruce Bell-Myers
Stillwater, Minn.




12:03 p.m. August 2, 2007

Consider the environmental and economic impact of the bridge collapse.

It is imperative that all remaining victims of this tragic accident be recovered and returned to their families for closure and grieving, and I am sure that this is what city and state officials are focusing on right now.

However, I wonder if anyone has considered what may happen to the river level given this impromptu dam in downtown Minneapolis. Has anyone considered the possibility of flooding occurring upstream of the bridge? Will the bridge pieces be removed quickly enough so that the Fall grain shipments will be allowed to leave unimpeded? What about the train tracks? Are these the tracks that AmTrak runs on, so that there will be a disruption in passenger train service too?

I know that many people are concerned about why the bridge collapsed, but now that this tragedy has occurred, I think there is some wisdom in looking to the future and trying to minimize the impact that this collapse will have on the environment and economy of Minnesota.

Allison Dove
Champaign, Ill.




10:57 a.m. August 2, 2007

Could this theory on the bridge collapse have national implications? Just a thought...Could it be that the bridge collapsed because the four lanes in the center of the bridge were closed and the total load (bumper-to-bumper traffic) was concentrated on the edges of the bridge, rather than evenly distributed across the whole bridge (as any model in the 60s might have assumed).

Just a thought...but urging repair teams across the nation to not close only the "inner" lines in both directions for the time being might be a good precaution?

If someone could pass this theory on to the brain/blamestorming team that's working on theories - maybe other accidents like this can be prevented or be made more unlikely for the time being.

Christian Milaster
Lanesboro, Minn.




10:22 a.m. August 2, 2007

How does a bridge collapse with no reported structural problems? I smell a problem.

With all due respect to the officials, I hardly believe that a bridge can-without warning-collapse. This makes no sense whatsoever. Am I the only person in this State that finds this scientifically impossible? I hope we have courageous leaders that will investigate and report, without fear, the real cause of the collapse.

Gale Pearson
Wayzata, Minn.




10:12 a.m. August 2, 2007

New 35W Bridge? When a new bridge is designed to replace the collapsed one, would it be possible to incorporate a light rail structure that would cross the river at that point and then proceed through the U of M campus and past the new stadium and then proceed on University Avenue? Apparently the existing bridge that was going to be used is not capable of handling light rail and it might be a solution for that project.

Jeff Thomas
Burnsville, Minn.




09:30 a.m. August 2, 2007

I was wondering when the bridge inspections are done, do they also test strain on the bridge while a train is traveling under it? Are officials considering what effects that train might have had on this incident?

Luke Wix
Burnsville, Minn.




08:17 a.m. August 2, 2007

Commentary: Why does this tragedy seem familiar?

As part of my daily commute to work, I drive along West River Parkway in Minneapolis, which follows the bank of the Mississippi River and passes directly under the I-35W bridge, or rather where the I-35W bridge once stood. In fact, I passed under the bridge at 5:45 p.m. yesterday and feel very lucky that my commute home was not delayed by 20 minutes, or I could have been part of the tragedy.

After accounting for my loved ones, I watched TV coverage and listened to sirens in the city, but I could not bring myself to go to the scene. I was surprised to hear that the bridge was given a clean bill of health as recently as 2004-05, and I take no comfort from hearing politicians reciting reports that don't match what I see every day. I have driven under the bridge in my daily commute for years, and often wondered when the bridge restoration or replacement project would commence.

I am no bridge expert, but the deterioration of this structure was apparent to the naked eye from below -- crumbling concrete revealed steel underneath, and rusty supports were visible. One did not have to look hard to see its age. I have been hearing about "fatigue details" noted in a study from 2001, which also noted the "high cost" associated with replacing the bridge. I wonder if our governor will rethink his political mantras of "No New Taxes" so that the state can begin to repair and replace some of the other failing roads in our state. And since this tragedy happened on an Interstate highway, I wonder if the president will put some effort into necessary work to the country's infrastructure (this could happen in your city). Or perhaps we should just continue to dump billions of dollars and hundreds of lives into an unjust-invasion- turned-civil war in Iraq which shows no signs of abating?

The Minneapolis bridge tragedy and the dumbfounded commentary from politicians about "what a mystery this tragic accident is" remind me all too much of the dumbfounded politicians that we heard from after the levees failed in New Orleans. In my humble opinion, it's time to start demonstrating that one of the benefits of democracy is that such tragedies can be avoided because our government looks after the well being of its citizens and addresses problems before human lives are sacrificed. Surely someone else must have noticed the visible deterioration of this structure....just as others were aware of the impending failure of the levees.

Jill Magaard
Minneapolis, Minn.




07:33 a.m. August 2, 2007

Commentary: Bridges are symbolic as well as structural. They represent strength and pride. A failure of a bridge is rare and usually catastrophic both physically and psychologically.

Fair or not, this bridge disaster will be seen as a failure in government - either to protect, inspect or construct - whether the disaster is a result of an act of terror, fatigue or an unknown phenomenon.

Dan McNichol
Boston, Mass.

[Editor: McNichol is the author of "The Roads That Built America: The incredible story of the U.S. Interstate System"]




06:39 a.m. August 2, 2007

Theory: Was it a particularly hot day when the bridge collapsed? If so suspect the expansion joints.

Ernest Lippard
Hickory, N.C.




12:32a August 2, 2007

Minnesota rejected for federal spending to improve infrastructure. I went to grad school in Minnesota (just left a year ago tomorrow) and recall hearing a few years back that Minnesota had requested money from the federal government to improve infrastructure and repair its roads and bridges and it was rejected. I actually think I heard this story on MPR but I haven't heard of any of this on today's news though. Perhaps MPR could fill us in...

Melissa Weiner
New Haven, Conn.




08:01 p.m. August 1, 2007

Willing to help response efforts: If available, can you please give a list of places where people can give blood? Thank you.

Zoey Herm
Saint Paul, Minn.

[Editor: Check the resources area of Minneapolis bridge collapse on MPR.org]




07:38 p.m. August 1, 2007

Who is identifying the missing to search for? Where is the organized effort to identify victims? Loved ones know who commutes on that bridge every day at the time of the collapse. Where's the hotline for people to call to identify people they cannot account for? Shouldn't there be an organized effort to identify who is missing and who the search crews need to search for? Is this the response we can look forward to when a major disaster strikes?

Tony Hainault
Saint Paul, Minn.




08:28 p.m. August 1, 2007

I drive over the I-35W bridge every day and I would check out the construction work. What struck me as odd is that they were cutting about a foot deep into the concrete of the bridge surface and cutting through what appeared to be very thick steel cables running along the length of the bridge inside the concrete.

From the zoomed-in video shots I'm seeing on TV, the breaks in the road segments are where this work was being undertaken.

I'm not a civil engineer, but it did strike me as odd that they were cutting through such sturdy looking elements of the bridge.

Craig Dillon
Minneapolis, Minn.






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