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Minneapolis Bridge Collapse Recovery, Investigation Continues

Aug 6, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP

No more victims were pulled from the wreckage of the Minneapolis Bridge collapse this weekend, although rescue officials believe there are more bodies to recover from the Mississippi River.  Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continued its investigation into the Minneapolis bridge collapse, amid reports that construction crews working on the Interstate 35W Bridge had felt the structure “wobble” for several days before the collapse.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, construction workers have said that in the days prior to the disaster, the Minneapolis Bridge had “wobbled” with every layer of concrete they moved.  The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) would not comment on the reports, saying that they would be part of the NTSB investigation into the Minneapolis bridge collapse.  A spokesperson for MNDOT also said that the NTSB was seeking information on the number of lanes that the I-35W Bridge had when it opened in 1967, as well as the number of vehicles the bridge carried at that time.

The NTSB said over the weekend that investigation of the Minneapolis Bridge collapse could take as long as 18 months.  The agency, which has 19 investigators assigned to the Minneapolis bridge collapse disaster, has concluded that the collapse did not originate on the south end of the I-35W Bridge, and they will look at the north side today.   An NTSB investigator told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that investigators are being extremely cautious because the collapsed Minneapolis Bridge is continuing to weaken.  

Those same conditions were making recovery efforts difficult at the site.  Divers were expected to return to the river today to search for the missing, and the state has requested help from FBI and Navy dive teams.  Last week, the Army Corps of Engineers lowered the level of the Mississippi River by two feet in an attempt to lessen the current.  Today, crews will begin removing debris from the river.  MNDOT has hired a contractor from St. Paul, Minnesota to handle debris removal.  The cleanup is expected to cost at least $15 million.

Five people have been confirmed dead as a result of the Minneapolis Bridge collapse, and eight are still missing.  On Saturday, families of the missing were brought to the site of the collapse for the first time.  Sunday was a day of prayer and grieving in the Twin Cities, where about 1400 people attended an interfaith memorial service at St. Marks Episcopal Cathedral.  

This morning, Minneapolis commuters attempted to make it into work without one of the city’s main corridors.  The I-35W Bridge had carried 140,000 cars everyday.  Commuters were encouraged to car pool and offered free bus rides.  Meanwhile, MNDOT officials mulled over plans for replacing the collapsed Minneapolis Bridge.  It is expected that replacement will cost in excess of $200 million.  Late last week, Congress approved $250 million in emergency funds to help Minnesota with the cost of cleanup and bridge replacement.  But MNDOT said that even with that money, the agency still faces a cash shortfall.

The I-35 W Bridge collapsed last Wednesday at the height of Minneapolis’ rush hour.  Between 50 and 100 vehicles were on the bridge when it fell into the Mississippi River.  Recent inspections of the Minneapolis Bridge had found it to be “structurally deficient”.  The Minneapolis Bridge collapse is only the second time in 25 years that a highway bridge in the US collapsed without a cause like an earthquake or collision.


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