Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Friday, August 03, 2007

MnDOT feared cracking in bridge

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported today that the MnDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) feared cracking in the bridge that fell into the Mississippi, but opted against making the repairs. Of course, its not simply that they didn't care. In truth, the Department of Transportation was 'broke.'

"The governor hammered through a plan that doesn't pay for itself," says state Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing), "and so now for the first time in the history of the state, the Department of Transportation is broke. What that means is if someone drives through a guard rail it is not going to be replaced very soon. If someone breaks an axle on a pothole, it is not going to be filled very soon."

It now turns out that structural deficiencies in the I-35W bridge were so serious that MnDOT considered bolting steel plates to its supports last winter so as to prevent cracking in fatigued metal. The bridge had known safety issues going back to 1990

The Star Tribune (MN) article quotes a construction industry official who said he met with MnDOT and discussed the shortcomings on the I-35W bridge. He stated that there have been grave concerns among MnDOT employees about the safety of the bridge and other area bridges:

"There were people over there that were deathly afraid that this kind of tragedy was going to be visited on us," the industry official said. "There were people in the department that were screaming to have these replaced." MnDOT has been trying to move these 'fracture critical' bridges up in their [budget] sequencing so something like this wouldn't happen," the source said.

It appears that MnDOT planned a stopgap measure that would reinforce the bridge with steel plates. This work was to have been completed by 2008:

According to a newsletter distributed in January 2007 by the Minnesota chapter of the Associated General Contractors, MnDOT was intending to take bids in late 2007 on a project that would "retrofit some of the chord members on the steel deck truss of [the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River]."The Department is looking for feedback and advice from contractors regarding the project staging and constructability," the newsletter said.

MnDOT officials denied that money issues had affected their ability to address safety issues, but others believe that was exactly the reason:

Dave Semerad, CEO of the Minnesota chapter of the Associated General Contractors, said everything MnDOT does is based on cost-benefit analysis.

"Let's face it. They don't have any money," Semerad said. "At the end of the day, that's the issue. This is indicative of a long-term pattern."

Of course, hampered by their financial constraints - Pawlenty induced budget woes - they couldn't afford to do a whole lot about the apparent cracks in the bridge, or its lousy safety rating. And of course... nobody told the public.

Fears about bridge safety fueled emotional debate within the agency, according to a construction industry source. But on the I-35W bridge, transportation officials opted against making the repairs.

Bet they're regretting that now...

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