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I-35W collapse
August 1, 2007 5:27 PM   Subscribe

The I-35W bridge by the University of Minnesota campus has collapsed. The bridge, one of the most heavily traveled freeway bridges in the Twin Cities metro area, collapsed around 6:05 this evening. Sections of the freeway are said to be floating in the Mississippi as cars are stranded on standing portions of the bridge. Slideshow of images. Real-time updates at MPR.
posted by baphomet (310 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cell phone networks in and around the Twin Cities are down, so if you have contact with loved ones in the area through this site please let them know that you're ok.
posted by baphomet at 5:27 PM on August 1, 2007


These guys have live video from the scene.
posted by dersins at 5:30 PM on August 1, 2007


7:15 p.m. - "My truck got completely torn in half," said Gary Bavanaugh, on WCCO.com. He was on the bridge when it collapsed. "The bridge started shaking and it went down fast."

Bavanaugh said he was headed northbound on I-35W when he heard a huge rumbling and he saw a huge cloud of white dust as the bridge collapsed. He had his seatbelt on and said if he hadn't, his head would have gone through the windshield.


First eye-witness accounts are broadcasting on 91.1...
posted by baphomet at 5:30 PM on August 1, 2007


WTH? The bridge just fell into the river? Are these things not inspected??
posted by UseyurBrain at 5:31 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


A WCCO reporter recounted his conversation with the lead engineer on the project, who said nothing seemed amiss.
posted by princesspathos at 5:32 PM on August 1, 2007


Wtf? I hope mostly everyone is ok...
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 5:33 PM on August 1, 2007


WTH? The bridge just fell into the river? Are these things not inspected??

Things fall apart. The center cannot hold.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:34 PM on August 1, 2007 [11 favorites]


Cell phone networks in and around the Twin Cities are down, so if you have contact with loved ones in the area through this site please let them know that you're ok.

I just got word that some company is offering free WiFi access for the next 12 hours to allow people to get a hold of others.

I'm in Mankato (hour and a half South of Minneapolis), and out cell phones are down, too.

It's important to note there's been construction going on this stretch of the highway for a while. At one point over the summer, the entire stretch of road which collapsed was shut down for construction.
posted by jmd82 at 5:34 PM on August 1, 2007


The Live video feed at cnn.com is covering this right now with video, commentary, and interviews with (at least one) witness. And it works better than the direct feed from KARE TV I linked to before, at least for me.
posted by dersins at 5:37 PM on August 1, 2007


MPR's News Radio has live coverage also, with many callers live from the scene.
posted by ALongDecember at 5:37 PM on August 1, 2007


according to the news it was mostly down to one lane due to "rehabilitation construction", i.e. jackhammering concrete off to replace it. it's 40 years old or so and didn't have any pylons supporting it half way thru the bridge. one firefighter just said a minute ago about 100 cars were on it.

hey jmd82, i just moved back to north mankato.
posted by andywolf at 5:39 PM on August 1, 2007


Cell phones are out? Is that related?

Is there any sign of foul play here?
posted by phrontist at 5:39 PM on August 1, 2007


that's pylons where it crosses the river. due to the locks.
posted by andywolf at 5:40 PM on August 1, 2007


It may be due to call volume. No reports yet of any foul play.
posted by ALongDecember at 5:41 PM on August 1, 2007


(sorry I posted in haste, cell phones are working sporadically but the networks are overloaded, text messaging is working fine but voice service is spotty)
posted by baphomet at 5:42 PM on August 1, 2007


Horrific.
posted by ColdChef at 5:43 PM on August 1, 2007


wow, that's horrible. I hope they figure out what happened... and I hope it wasn't someone's idiocy.
posted by blacklite at 5:43 PM on August 1, 2007


Cell phones are out? Is that related?

No. Everyone and their mom (myself included) is trying to get a hold of people we know drive 35W. It's a main artery in the cities and goes straight through downtown.

Hey andywolf. Welcome back. The whole North Mankato/Mankato thing still annoys me.
posted by jmd82 at 5:43 PM on August 1, 2007


Many people were on in their way into town for Twins game. Metrodome is just a few blocks from the collapsed bridge.
posted by marsha56 at 5:43 PM on August 1, 2007


holy crap
posted by edgeways at 5:44 PM on August 1, 2007


Per WCCO: The project spokesman feels the collapse is due to a catastrophic failure of the steel girders in the bridge.
posted by princesspathos at 5:45 PM on August 1, 2007


Er, yes, cell phones ARE mostly out. No sign of foul play.
posted by jmd82 at 5:45 PM on August 1, 2007


Wow. It's not just a section of the bridge; the *whole thing* collapsed. Pretty terrible.
posted by washburn at 5:47 PM on August 1, 2007


Reporters from several stations are telling people to stop using their cell phones and to *stop* coming down just to take photographs.

Yikes.
posted by drstein at 5:49 PM on August 1, 2007


I don't live in the twinkies but have driven over that bridge countless times
posted by edgeways at 5:49 PM on August 1, 2007


And a bridge in Northern California just collapsed yesterday.

Considering that a large portion of my trip home from work is on fairly high bridges, many of which are currently under construction...

I think I'll be taking surface streets home tonight. I ain't superstitious, why chance becoming an ironic foot-note.
posted by quin at 5:50 PM on August 1, 2007


...but why chance...
posted by quin at 5:51 PM on August 1, 2007


According to news reports I've heard, there was a safety inspection last year that indicated 'fractures' (sorry, news was vague). Both north and south lanes were under heavy construction, but it was entirely surface work. Both sides were closed down to only one or two lanes of traffic, but during rush hour, that's bumper to bumper.

I was just complaining yesterday about how horrible the construction delays were...
posted by graventy at 5:51 PM on August 1, 2007


Akira?
posted by alexei at 5:52 PM on August 1, 2007


It's kind of eerie to look at a traffic map of the area right now.

Minnesota Dept of Transportation traffic map
Google maps (turn on traffic if it's not on)
posted by TheClonusHorror at 5:52 PM on August 1, 2007


From KARE-11 story, "there was shaking from jack hammer and then the bridge just dropped".
posted by marsha56 at 5:52 PM on August 1, 2007


and there's a thunderstorm rolling in...
posted by beandip at 5:53 PM on August 1, 2007


... One afternoon in
Minneapolis, I slogged over the Tenth
Avenue bridge, I slogged upstairs
At Seven Corners, I had money enough
To climb the bitter dead
In the black snow.

(with apologies to) James Wright
posted by felix betachat at 5:53 PM on August 1, 2007


The military just cleared the news choppers out to make way for emergency air traffic. Craziness.
posted by baphomet at 5:55 PM on August 1, 2007




Oh, lord. My stomach is in knots watching all this coverage. I hope all the kids on that bus got out.
posted by obeetaybee at 5:57 PM on August 1, 2007


My best wishes to anyone involved with this mess; I hope your loved ones get home safe and sound tonight.

The cell phones being jammed sucks. One thing that's good about the old landline telephones is that you can wait for a dial tone. They get jammed in emergencies too, but if you're willing to sit and wait, eventually you'll get a tone and can take your turn. With a cell phone, there's no way to wait for a slot, so everyone keeps hammering away retrying and clogging the system even more.

They really ought to fix that. Cell phones are supposed to be for emergencies, dammit!
posted by Malor at 5:57 PM on August 1, 2007


It's been hot there, i just heard. Prolonged heat can drive off some water of crystallization of concrete, weakening it. I suppose you possibly could prevent such a thing with prophylactic spraying after so many days of really hot weather.
posted by jamjam at 5:59 PM on August 1, 2007


The I-35W Bridge is a deck-arch truss bridge that spans the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

It was built in 1967 by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The bridge is notable for not having any piers in the water.
Instead, the main support piers are located on the banks of the river, and are built of tubular-shaped concrete pillars.

This allows for a wide, clear span across the river, making river navigation easier.

Although not very decorative, the bridge is one of the widest bridges in the Twin Cities area and provides an important link for Interstate 35W traffic.
posted by wfc123 at 6:00 PM on August 1, 2007


this happened to the silver bridge over the ohio river when i was a kid. i was just a kid, but i remember very well the furor it caused. i mean, justifiably so. what a tragedy.
posted by msconduct at 6:01 PM on August 1, 2007


Obeetaybee- WCCO said all of the kids have been accounted for and their parents have been contacted. Any injuries they sustained have not been serious.

(I'm not a shill for WCCO, I swear.)
posted by princesspathos at 6:01 PM on August 1, 2007


Einstürzende brücken
posted by isopraxis at 6:01 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm fine, though bizarrely enough could have been there when it collapsed had I decided to run my errands in a different order. It's strange to think about such trivial decisions having such dire consequences.

Glad to see you (and presumably M) are okay, Baphomet. My heart goes out to everyone in the area.
posted by voltairemodern at 6:02 PM on August 1, 2007


yeah, that bridge was a workhorse. Didn't think/know the heat would affect it, but I guess it is possible.
posted by edgeways at 6:02 PM on August 1, 2007


I live a few blocks away, in Dinkytown. I have some photos on Flickr.
posted by adamwolf at 6:05 PM on August 1, 2007 [6 favorites]


CNN reports 3 dead
posted by A189Nut at 6:06 PM on August 1, 2007


I was at a meeting on UMN campus when this happened.

Smoke, sirens, people gathered in clumps on every nearby bridge looking over the wreckage.

I almost went over to look - thought better of it. This is a huge mess. The deaths and injuries, the long-term problems with repair, and the river is blocked, which will affect not just auto but shipping traffic... this is just horrible. It isn't something I need to witness firsthand.

For what it's worth, cell phone calls are possible if you're patient. I was able to contact my parents and my mother-in-law, then I stopped calling.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:08 PM on August 1, 2007


I hope my coworkers are all right. :(
posted by erpava at 6:10 PM on August 1, 2007


Some intense pictures, adamwolf.
Just remember looking at those maps that I had a friend heading from Mankato to the game tonight...surely taking 35W. Hope they're OK.
As if to make things more difficult, heavy storms appear to be rolling by too.
posted by jmd82 at 6:11 PM on August 1, 2007


Holy shit. Some of the newscasters seem to be saying that the vibrations from a jackhammer or piledriver caused this. Is that feasible?
posted by homunculus at 6:12 PM on August 1, 2007


adamwolf: emergency classroom response vehicle? that's weird
posted by andywolf at 6:12 PM on August 1, 2007


My brother and I used to pay in the hollowed out supports of the Cedar Avenue Bridge right next to it. We used to call it "Frankensteins Castle."
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:13 PM on August 1, 2007


*play...

Wow. Hard to believe anything could knock that thing down.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:14 PM on August 1, 2007


If what graventy said is correct, it was likely a steel fatigue failure of the bridge truss. The jackhammering may have been the trigger for it, but would not have caused it by itself in the absence of prior fatigue-related problems. This coupled with the the fact that during rush hour, the bridge likely sees the largest loads it ever sees.
posted by pitchblende at 6:14 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


InfrastructureCollapseFilter!

See also:

the collapse of public transport infrastructure despite record demand;

current inequality between rich and poor at highest levels since 1928;

social mobility of the US far worse than in Europe;

mass privatization of critical public infrastructure;

US engineers reporting massive neglect of infrastructure;

19th-century-style domination of the US political process by multimillionaires and immensely powerful media;

etc, etc
posted by Bletch at 6:15 PM on August 1, 2007 [27 favorites]


Thanks for the pictures, Adam. I hope you don't mind that I added a few tags.
posted by ColdChef at 6:15 PM on August 1, 2007


We're all good voltairemodern, as are all of the acquaintances we've been able to contact.

You have no idea how freaked out I am right now dude. I could have been driving over that bridge an hour before this happened if I'd taken a different route home from work today. I feel pretty surreal right now.



First confirmed death. Cause: drowning.
posted by baphomet at 6:15 PM on August 1, 2007


(Heard on CNN that the Twins game is not only going on but that they're trying to keep people there as long as possible because they want to keep the area clear.)
posted by brina at 6:16 PM on August 1, 2007


This is unbelievable, I drive across this bridge half a dozen times a week. I haven't felt like this since the morning of the 11th of September, 2001.
posted by charmston at 6:17 PM on August 1, 2007


By the way, fatigue is a well known vulnerability of steel bridges of this type, and they usually require more frequent and more specialized type of inspections (by the Feds and State Hwy depts) than other types of bridges (concrete, steel girder, etc).
posted by pitchblende at 6:17 PM on August 1, 2007


It was the end of rush hour, but with traffic limited to only one or two lane, I wouldn't think it would be the heaviest traffic the bridge has experienced. I'm starting to think it was just a fluke-y combination of heat, vibrations, and a thirty year old bridge.
posted by graventy at 6:18 PM on August 1, 2007


Some of the newscasters seem to be saying that the vibrations from a jackhammer or piledriver caused this. Is that feasible?

Feasible? It's possible, yes. Very unlikely, though, and even then only in a "straw that broke the camel's back" sort of manner.

This whole thing looks like a terrible and almost wholly unpredictable tragedy. Fingerpointing will commence soon, in any case, so maybe someday we'll know for sure what happened.
posted by voltairemodern at 6:18 PM on August 1, 2007


According to CNN, 200,000 cars cross this bridge daily.
posted by ColdChef at 6:19 PM on August 1, 2007


CNN also notes that the bridge was inspected as recently as three years ago.
posted by ColdChef at 6:21 PM on August 1, 2007


jeezy creezy. i know plenty of people who go over that stretch regularly..i hope they're fine...
posted by lester the unlikely at 6:21 PM on August 1, 2007


graventy - I didn't mean it was the highest load it had ever experienced, just that rush hour is obviously the most loaded time of the day. Certainly with closed lanes, that would result in reduced weight on the bridge, assuming the construction equipment didn't make up for that missing weight.
posted by pitchblende at 6:22 PM on August 1, 2007


From WCCO story

According to reports from the scene, crews on the Mississippi River are no longer in rescue mode but recovery mode.

Sad...
posted by marsha56 at 6:23 PM on August 1, 2007


Jesus. Also a bridge I'm on quite a bit. My heart goes out to everyone.
posted by Zosia Blue at 6:24 PM on August 1, 2007


Yeah, and it's been really hot here. 90+ for a few days, 80+ for maybe a week? More to come too.
posted by taursir at 6:24 PM on August 1, 2007


In the news story some Public Official is quoted as saying something like "we have no reason to suspect TERRORISM at this time," and now Charmston just brought up "the morning of the 11th of September, 2001." Can't a shitty bridge that's been shittily maintained just collapse without somebody bringing up The Tragedy That Changed Everything?

Bridges were collapsing before 9/11/2001 BC for fuck's sake.
posted by davy at 6:25 PM on August 1, 2007 [18 favorites]


coldchef - 3 years may sound like a recent inspection, but the FHWA requires inspections every 24 months, unless a specific waiver is granted for a 48 month interval, I believe. And bridges with this type of structure often require more frequent inspections than 24 months due to the possibility of fatigue failure.
posted by pitchblende at 6:26 PM on August 1, 2007


US Internet was contracted to construct a city-wide wireless network. This appears to be what has been opened up for free usage over the next 12 hours.
posted by charmston at 6:27 PM on August 1, 2007


@davy - I was just referring to the way that I, as a resident of the Twin Cities, am feeling right now. In no way was I alluding (or otherwise comparing) this event to terrorist attacks. Apologies if what I said was misunderstood.
posted by charmston at 6:28 PM on August 1, 2007


.
posted by Doohickie at 6:28 PM on August 1, 2007


Wholly unpredictable? Mostly unpredictable, timing and place unpredictable, but one of the first thoughts that occurred to me was, Engineers and various critics of our national spending priorities have been warning about the nation's aging infrastructure a few years now. See also: NE US Blackout of 2003, failure of flood control system in New Orleans in 2005, etc.
posted by raysmj at 6:29 PM on August 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


jmd82, your friend should be fine. This is a bridge that takes people from north of the city into downtown, not from the south (I'm sure jmd82 knows, but for anyone else reading, Mankato is southwest of the twin cities.)
posted by marsha56 at 6:29 PM on August 1, 2007


Gotcha, pitchblende.

I think it's kind of crazy that people automatically link this to terrorism. Don't get me wrong, I thought it too, for a sec, but it's fucking Minnesota.
posted by graventy at 6:30 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


At least 50 cars plunged into the river, according to local news.
posted by wfc123 at 6:30 PM on August 1, 2007


davy- Don't be so fucking crass for a change. Just once. It's easy to act calm about it when it isn't happening 5 miles from your doorstep, but as calm as you try to be about it, you still can't help but think that maybe the worst happened, and with the complete lack of information that has been (not) circulating up until the last 20 minutes it's easy for people's imaginations to run wild.

Just leave this thread if you don't have anything to contribute.
posted by baphomet at 6:31 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't really believe CNN at all. I mean, the stuff they quote on the air is whatever some dude googled five minutes before, or maybe they looked on Wikipedia.
posted by smackfu at 6:31 PM on August 1, 2007


Not that I believe anyone else. Breaking news is worthless rumors and the only things that's not incorrect is the aerial footage.
posted by smackfu at 6:32 PM on August 1, 2007


The jackhammering may have been the trigger for it...

Mechanical resonance?
posted by well_balanced at 6:32 PM on August 1, 2007


Looking at a map, It seems like I must have crossed that bridge every time we went up to visit my grandmother, who lives up at a nursing home around here. You take 35W up to hennepin up to snelling. But, I don't ever remember that bridge. It must not have been very memorable, maybe because when I crossed it I would have been looking over at skyscrapers downtown. I must have crossed that bridge 20 or 30 times. Frigging crazy.
posted by delmoi at 6:34 PM on August 1, 2007


CNN reported that Secretary Chertoff said there's no indication the collapse was related to terrorism.
posted by cerebus19 at 6:34 PM on August 1, 2007


I've been really impressed with the local coverage of events, from WCCO and KSTP. They're getting local structural engineers and first person accounts as fast as possible. The national coverage of CNN and Fox News has been shit, in comparison.
posted by graventy at 6:36 PM on August 1, 2007


I'm fine. I was six blocks away. Buying a lottery ticket. Heard nothing.

I edit a local web page, MnSpeak. We're updating as soon as we hear news.

You know, I was in LA during the riots and New Orleans for Katrina. I'm starting to think I'm a jinx.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:36 PM on August 1, 2007 [8 favorites]


I'm curious about the heat thing. Other cities have a hotter climate that Minneapolis, even during our little heat stretch. What would make this bridge more susceptible to heat than other bridges in hotter climates?

marsha56: I had got the location of the stadium mixed up in relation to where this happened. Thanks for the correction.
posted by jmd82 at 6:37 PM on August 1, 2007


Interesting. Quebec had a bridge collapse the other month and many more have been found to show signs of fatigue.

I'm curious as to whether they were all built about the same time. Could be our assumptions about bridge lifetimes/inspection requirements have been wildly inaccurate.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:40 PM on August 1, 2007


Shoddy WPA workmanship? Just kidding. My condolences to the families who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:41 PM on August 1, 2007




Wow. I hope all your loved ones are safe.

What a horrible horrible accident.
posted by bshort at 6:46 PM on August 1, 2007


For anyone who cares, I'm okay.

I was on that bridge an hour and a half before it collapsed, admiring the nice new concrete they'd put down.

Guh.
posted by jiawen at 6:48 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


I use that bridge regularly, but not recently due to all the construction. It is scary for those of us living here. It will scar the city for quite a while - it's in full view of my SO's office window.
posted by Rain Man at 6:48 PM on August 1, 2007


I didn't know so many of you were from Minnesota. I work in the U of MN WBOB building, which is about a block from this section of bridge. I sit in meetings, looking out at the river, every day. I am just in shock and hoping that all the people that I work with are OK.
posted by amj at 6:50 PM on August 1, 2007


admiring the nice new concrete they'd put down.

sounds.. heavy.
posted by stbalbach at 6:50 PM on August 1, 2007


coming up: 72 hours of of rubble video accompanied by the palpably disappointed-its-not-terra drone of shitcasters blathering incessantly onward in that melodramatic tone of voice that makes you want to punch them repeatedly in the face.
posted by quonsar at 6:53 PM on August 1, 2007 [7 favorites]


Crazy. Crossing 35 on Franklin we noticed that northbound traffic was backed up for miles and there was an abnormal amount of westbound traffic on Franklin. Just figured it was the usual interstate road closure.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 6:53 PM on August 1, 2007


The vast majority of transportation infrastructure in the US was built in the mid-20th century, so really it's a matter of time before things start falling apart here and there. When you get right down to it, quality maintenance for every linear foot of highway is really not practical. I fear that we will be seeing more and more such events in the coming decades, whether it's a big bridge or collapses over a creek or sinkhole. That said, I'm glad that there was surprisingly little loss of life.

Can't a shitty bridge that's been shittily maintained just collapse without somebody bringing up The Tragedy That Changed Everything?

Amen.
posted by hodyoaten at 6:53 PM on August 1, 2007


Coldchef, feel free to add as much as you like to those images. I mostly wanted to upload them as fast as possible.

They're creative commons'ed now as well.
posted by adamwolf at 6:54 PM on August 1, 2007


I was on the I-40 bridge that collapsed at Webbers Falls, OK in 2002 less than two hours before it collapsed. 14 people died that day and it took me several days to get over thinking that if I had been driving a little slower or if I had been delayed at all, it could have been me at the bottom of the river.
posted by WhipSmart at 6:56 PM on August 1, 2007


A month ago, I moved out of an apartment a block away from the northern point of that bridge. For the 3 months prior to that, I walked underneath it every day on the way home from work. Thank God lanes were closed when this happened.
posted by nicething at 6:57 PM on August 1, 2007


We're going to see more of these. After I was in a disaster (I'm the one wearing a tie) I read a lot about the crumbling infrastructure of this country.

Summary: Americans had other priorities for their money than spending it on fixing bridges even in 1989 and it's only gotten worse since then.

On preview: what raysmj said. Consider that we've had three infrastructure failures since Bush was elected (WTC, though that was a special case, New Orleans and the blackouts on the East and West Coasts) -- and none of them have been fixed, haven't even been a real issue in the election campaign.

I used to believe that Americans would wake up once stuff started falling down around their ears. I was wrong. I don't think anything will wake people up.

(Nothing against the good people of Minnesota, who don't deserve this...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:00 PM on August 1, 2007


"we have no reason to suspect TERRORISM at this time,"

Ugh. I knew this was going to be said. It's going to be said at every disaster for the next 20 years, that isn't Mother Nature clearly fucking with us.

That said, we have no reason to suspect SERIAL KILLERS SHARKS at this time either.

One day we are going to grow up and have a perfectly good disaster that doesn't need to be made any more scary.

I look forward to that day.
posted by quin at 7:02 PM on August 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


I'm watching KARE-11 picture and listening to 91.1.

KARE-11 is showing HCMC phone number, BUT 91.1 is reporting that everyone rescued from the north side of the bridge will be taken to North Memorial.

Also, command center at Holiday Inn nearby has info. Radio says you can call there or even go there if you're looking for loved ones.

(sorry, I almost posted all three of these numbers, then realized that it might not be wise to broadcast these phone numbers to the entire internet world. They can be easily found by these who need them.)
posted by marsha56 at 7:02 PM on August 1, 2007


If I may say so, when Homeland Security is called upon to address every single tragedy in this country and assure us that it's not a terror attack, something is wrong. Bridges, buildings, infrastructure collapse and are disastrous for communities and individuals. I was in Hartford in the 1970s when the Civic Center coliseum roof caved in, just hours after a large crowd had left. The collapse was terrifying enough, quite traumatic for the city's residents, many of whom immediately thought back to the city's last disaster, the Hartford circus fire. People look for what is familiar, in looking for instant answers, I guess.

But continual references to terror are wearing, no matter where you live. I'm near NYC; every single train accident, roadway problem, like the blown steam pipe, boat crash, etc., is now reported with the Homeland Security element. Frankly, the rush to ask that question--and the department's amazing ability to instantly dismiss it-- is getting to be trite. So while I don't mock people's concern about an accident possibly being a terror attack, it would seem that it needn't be our first thought every single time.
posted by etaoin at 7:02 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wholly unpredictable? Mostly unpredictable, timing and place unpredictable, but one of the first thoughts that occurred to me was, Engineers and various critics of our national spending priorities have been warning about the nation's aging infrastructure a few years now.

You're right, of course. I was thinking of how difficult it would have been to assess that this particular bridge would collapse now -- time and place, as you say.

It will be interesting to hear what the results of its last inspection contained, whether there was any reason to expect this catastrophe aside from the more general neglect of infrastructure.
posted by voltairemodern at 7:03 PM on August 1, 2007


It is scary for those of us living here. It will scar the city for quite a while - it's in full view of my SO's office window.

Agree..
posted by marsha56 at 7:06 PM on August 1, 2007


I was driving in the opposite direction, away from the river, to go shopping at Rosedale just before then. Who knew a $10 coupon at Kohl's could save your life?

(They don't call this MinneFilter for nothing, you know.)
posted by gimonca at 7:06 PM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Someone upthread says the bridge was inspected as early as three years ago?

Methinks it should be inspected more frequently than that. Who is running this country?
posted by chlorus at 7:07 PM on August 1, 2007


My boss was on the way home from work in his truck and said he saw the bridge fall 3 car lengths away from him.

Before he left I had asked him if he wanted to go out for a beer, but he declined saying that he needed to get home and do some work around the house. He was the first person I text-messaged when I heard about the bridge falling out. I was just glad to know he was alright and then I warned him about the dangers of not going out for beers after work.
posted by Demogorgon at 7:09 PM on August 1, 2007 [5 favorites]


Weird fucking day. We were just wrapping up making fun of the 6:00 newscast when they cut to coverage of the bridge collapse... I had this weird, weird moment of unreality when I saw what was going on. Like, I've seen the other big recent disasters and believed it right away; this seemed fake because it was my town, dammit.

All of the freeway bridges across the Mississippi are really, really high up here, and I drive across them a lot; I've got a height-fear thing and an overactive imagination, and lots of times I've started imagining what it would be like if the bridge collapsed and I fell... I never fucking believed it was something that would really happen.

Immediate disaster aside, this is going to fuck life in the Twin Cities for a long time; 35W's a major artery, and a lot of people are going to have trouble getting to work for a long time.
posted by COBRA! at 7:11 PM on August 1, 2007


Apologies if what I said was misunderstood.
posted by charmston


You owe no apology. I'm sure most people understood it as you intended.
posted by The Deej at 7:14 PM on August 1, 2007


Methinks it should be inspected more frequently than that. Who is running this country?
We should consider ourselves lucky if they can get potable water to the people stranded on the bridge within, oh, two weeks or so.
posted by Flunkie at 7:14 PM on August 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


Further background:

Our state administration is Republican-run, and has become a bit notorious for penny-pinching on highway projects. A very major project just a little further south on 35W had a serious delay when Gov. Pawlenty essentially asked contractors to pony money up front to pay for initial costs as part of their bid on the project. Contractors said no, and the project was put back for like a year.

There's a chance that this event could be the direct result of "I'm not going to raise taxes!!" politics at the state level. Or it could be an indirect result, sort of like Katrina and global warming--something that's statistically more likely to happen when the entire system is stressed out.

For that matter, this means that there will be a huge, unavoidable infrastructure collapse for everyone to see within an easy taxi ride of the 2008 Republican convention in St. Paul. I doubt it'll be back to normal by then.

I can hear helicopters and such over my house, headed in that direction, I'm about 5 miles away. It's been raining and thundering on people down there just now. This is terrible.
posted by gimonca at 7:15 PM on August 1, 2007


Someone upthread says the bridge was inspected as early as three years ago?

Local media has been saying there was an inspection in 2004. Don't know if that was the most recent activity.
posted by gimonca at 7:17 PM on August 1, 2007


All of the freeway bridges across the Mississippi are really, really high up here, and I drive across them a lot;

Same here. A lot of the times driving across that bridge I could feel it flex with the traffic.

The High Bridge in St. Paul is the one that gets me. 160 down to the water.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 7:19 PM on August 1, 2007


Friday, my brother was bitten by a brown recluse spider and is presently residing in a Rochester, NY area hospital. Today, my stepfather left for a Vietnam veterans' reunion in Minneapolis, and hasn't been heard from in a number of hours. I wonder what will complete the trifecta.
posted by biggity at 7:19 PM on August 1, 2007


I can't believe that they've pulled survivors out of the water; I guess it makes sense, but I can't imagine surviving that fall.
posted by COBRA! at 7:20 PM on August 1, 2007


91.1 is reporting that everyone rescued from the north side of the bridge will be taken to North Memorial.

Bet they're going over the crotchety old Lowry Avenue bridge, which if you would have asked me this morning, I would have voted most likely to collapse in a heap.
posted by gimonca at 7:20 PM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that one of my first thoughts was, "I sure hope Prince is okay."

He's playing a concert in London tonight. Yes, I looked it up. I love Prince, what can I say?
posted by ColdChef at 7:20 PM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


msconduct: Of course, the Silver Bridge disaster was caused by Mothman. I'm not sure that's the case here.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:21 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well it was an interstate so I assume, and perhaps I am wrong, but most money for upkeep would come from the feds, yes?
posted by edgeways at 7:22 PM on August 1, 2007


Looking at a map, It seems like I must have crossed that bridge every time we went up to visit my grandmother, who lives up at a nursing home around here. You take 35W up to hennepin up to snelling. But, I don't ever remember that bridge.

I went over that bridge thousands of times over thirty years and I can barely remember it, either. I remember the exit on the West Bank because that's where my girlfriend lived and my high school was, but I don't remember the bridge -- maybe the exit signs, but not the bridge.

My brother says he loved crossing it in his big tall truck because there was an amazing view -- and there should've been, it's a beautiful curve of the Mississippi River in a less ugly than usual city -- but I don't remember it at all. I just remember a freeway place where I get off. That's all, and now not even that.
posted by gum at 7:23 PM on August 1, 2007


it was a very strange and eerie sight. with my camera, surrounded by everybody with their cameras, surrounded by the government and media with their cameras- the sound a quiet murmur and awe beneath helicopter and emergency vehicle snorts, and the simple idea of 'terrorism' complicating each citizen's comprehension of the event

twisted metal bigger than cars. cement and lives in the river. a newfound (though i am sure it will be short-lived) aversion to bridges.
posted by localhuman at 7:24 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


eerie indeed, localhu

local news claims the bridge was inspected in 2005 and/or 2006 and thought to be okay
posted by Rain Man at 7:28 PM on August 1, 2007


My wife was apparently one of the last couple of people to cross southbound.

As she always blasts the radio, she didn't hear anything, but was wondering why there were suddenly no cars behind her.

We're kinda freaked out.

Nice to see so many other Minnesotans here and glad that none of us have a horror story to share.
posted by Ickster at 7:32 PM on August 1, 2007


Said baphomet: "davy- Don't be so fucking crass for a change."

I can't believe a guy who calls himself after the fucking Devil is telling me not to be "crass." Why don't you change your Mefi logname to mary_poppins?

Otherwise, charmston, yeah I over-reacted and I'm sorry for snapping at you.
posted by davy at 7:32 PM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


If rich people and megacorporations paid their share of taxes fewer bridges would be collapsing like this. If Nader runs again I swear I'll register just so I can vote for him.
posted by davy at 7:33 PM on August 1, 2007


There was the best view of downtown at night going south across that bridge. I always wanted to shoot from there but it wasn't pedestrian friendly.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 7:36 PM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


As has been said, this is going to be with us for a long while. Not only is our infrastructure aging, but no one wants to pay to fix it and no one wants to pay to maintain it. And yet we can spend a trillion dollars avenging a rich kid's dad's failed assasination attempt...

Here in Seattle, we have two monster structures in the city limits alone which are at the end of their useful life, the Viaduct and the Evergreen Point (Highway 520) floating bridge. Each will require several billion dollars to replace--perhaps as much as ten billion for both. The entirety of interstate 5 through Seattle is elevated, fortunately on concrete (for the most part), though the main route out of town to the north is via a steel arch bridge, which is double-decked. On highway 99 north of the viaduct is the George Washington (Aurora) bridge, another steel structure.

Heck, the ferry I take several times a year is over 80 years old and its hull is anywhere from 20% to 80% thinned from corrosion. Again, new ferries are hundreds of millions apiece.

A favorite canard of the anti-public-transportation people is "more roads." We cannot even afford to care for the roads we already have.
posted by maxwelton at 7:36 PM on August 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


Pawlenty's creed is slash services so he can bask in the admiration of voters who only care about cutting taxes.

Penny wise, pound foolish.

This is your wake up call, Minnesota.

(frighteningly, Pawlenty is often mentioned, here at least, as a rising star and future presidential or at least VP material.)
posted by marsha56 at 7:37 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


I can't believe a guy who calls himself after the fucking Devil is telling me not to be "crass."

Once again, davy, it's not about you.

So fucking sad, this. I used to walk across the 10th Ave bridge every day on the way to campus. All these photos show me a familiar view with a big freaking hole in it. I'm glad everyone here is okay.
posted by felix betachat at 7:37 PM on August 1, 2007




Six.

MINNEAPOLIS - An interstate bridge suddenly broke into huge sections and collapsed into the Mississippi River during bumper-to-bumper traffic Wednesday, killing at least six people and sending vehicles, tons of concrete and twisted metal crashing into the water
posted by etaoin at 7:38 PM on August 1, 2007




At just after 6:00 p.m. I looked out my office window in the direction of the Guthrie theater, which is to say I looked out directly towards this bridge. I saw a huge puff of dust rise in the air, and I thought perhaps it was some sort of fire as it has been very dry in Minneapolis. After looking for a few seconds, I realized that it acted more like dust than smoke, and I figured that some group of construction workers were simply performing some sort of work that raises a lot of dust.

I looked away, and didn't think about it until a few minutes later when someone walked by and said the bridge collapsed. I looked back out the window and peaked through the mini telescope on my desk.

The images were terrible.
posted by Muddler at 7:42 PM on August 1, 2007


Honestly, this feels pretty close to how I felt on 9/11. Not because of the magnitude (it's significant, but obviously less so) or because it's related to terrorism at all (I never even thought of that), but because of the same initial shock, the same slooooow realization that something really bad happened, the same rushing home to watch the news, the same clicking of news sites, the same constant need for information that is repeated, regurgitated, and not always true. I feel the need to just get away from the internet, to turn off my tv and my radio, and yet I feel guilty for doing so. And this isn't across the country, it's less than 10 miles away.

So, I understand what charmston said. Obviously it's not a world changing event, but it's definitely important to us locals.

Who else is giving blood tomorrow?
posted by jetskiaccidents at 7:47 PM on August 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


Okay, I'm a little freaked. My aunt lives in that area, and I can't get in touch with her, nor has any of my family heard from her. I was only able to get through by phone half an hour ago (after an hour and a half of "all circuits busy"), and now the phone just rings and rings. I'm sure she's fine, but she recently changed jobs and I have no idea of what route she takes to get there.
posted by kimdog at 7:53 PM on August 1, 2007


jetski: turn everything off except your music device and play john coltrane's A Love Supreme. it will cool you out.
posted by vrakatar at 7:56 PM on August 1, 2007


its nice to see the minneapolitans out on mefi tonights
posted by localhuman at 8:00 PM on August 1, 2007


Very dramatic photo set from StarTribune.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:03 PM on August 1, 2007 [4 favorites]


Cell phone networks have the capacity to carry calls from around 10% of cell phones at any moment. Land line systems have higher capacity, although it's still well under 100%. Cell and often land line systems invariably jam in a disaster. The unwashed masses make needless calls, and important emergency calls can't get through.

This is one of the reasons why I do ham radio.
posted by neuron at 8:04 PM on August 1, 2007


its nice to see the minneapolitans out on mefi tonights

*waves*

meetup?

sry victims
posted by Demogorgon at 8:06 PM on August 1, 2007


To go with wfc123's informative post (above) this page contains a decent picture of the understructure. While the illustrations of the under-truss bridge design shows the span between two girders, it appears that this bridge relies on some pretty small looking girders that aren't all the way on either end.

I'm guessing there are some elderly engineers in Minnesota that aren't sleeping very well tonight.
posted by spock at 8:11 PM on August 1, 2007


Here is the pic page.
posted by spock at 8:11 PM on August 1, 2007


Mipples roll call - I'm OK. I was in Stevens Square Park at the time. The air was thick with sirens all over the city.

My sister missed the bridge collapse by a minute. I haven't been able to get more details from her, due to the jammed cel grid. Another friend would have been walking on the path under the bridge had he not decided he was too tired and taken the bus. I am watching the news, watching emergency crews on the banks of a river where I walk and bike all the time. It's surreal seeing a scene like this in such a familiar landscape.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:15 PM on August 1, 2007


btw Anything coming out of Norm's office should be treated a little shaky.
posted by edgeways at 8:16 PM on August 1, 2007


Minnesota Department of Transportation web cams page for Minneapolis are a bit eerie. Click on any dot on I35-W north of I 94 and get NO VIDEO and when you hit the first camera with video it's a little scary looking.
posted by spock at 8:18 PM on August 1, 2007


stand by for bush in a flight suit standing in the rubble with a megaphone saying "the engineers who designed this bridge are going to be hearing from us!"

i imagine this makes the minneapolis mayor a viable presidential candidate, huh?
posted by quonsar at 8:25 PM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm no Bush supporter, but stretching this tragedy into a Bush-bash is really low rent, Q.
posted by spock at 8:30 PM on August 1, 2007


i imagine this makes the minneapolis mayor a viable presidential candidate, huh?

Doubt it. Bush will give all credit to T-Paw.

I'm really surprised there hasn't been footage of the collapse itself. With all the traffic cams of 35W, you'd think there'd be one that might've caught it in real time.
posted by graventy at 8:31 PM on August 1, 2007


The collapse may well have been captured by the traffic cams, but I don't think they are going to release the footage this soon after, not until the appropriate officials have time to go over them at the very least.
posted by edgeways at 8:33 PM on August 1, 2007


spock, I saw on another board that I frequent (SA goons, anyone?) that those camera have been down for a while due to the construction work in the area.
posted by chiababe at 8:34 PM on August 1, 2007


btw Anything coming out of Norm's office should be treated a little shaky.

Good point.

posted by gimonca at 8:34 PM on August 1, 2007


I'm with jetskiaccidents- I live about a mile away, and I heard tons of ambulances heading towards abbott (maybe because HCMC is packed?)

I couldn't believe it was real, and then watching the news, getting angry because I couldn't call anyone or find out any more news- then feeling that slow sinking realization that something bad happened and there's not anything I can do about it.

Finishing the evening off with lots of vodka. I'm not looking forward to going in to work tomorrow... I'm betting it's going to be hell, for a number of reasons.

for twin cities MeFites: this really does just screw things up for the metro, doesn't it? holy crap. the long-term ramifications of this are pretty heavy. Pawlenty's on my shitlist right now, more than ever before.
posted by EricGjerde at 8:35 PM on August 1, 2007


I've driven on that bridge thousands of times, literally. I live less than a mile from it.

What a sad day.
posted by tremolo1970 at 8:38 PM on August 1, 2007


I'm OK (not that you've missed me). The company I work for (whose firewall and security policies are the reason I haven't been here for 6 months) has a facility in the shadow of the bridge. I haven't heard anything about co-workers, but from the TV, our parking lot might have been hit but the building looks OK.

The wife is an MD at a local hospital. She's been asked to stay near her pager, but hasn't been called in - current expectation is that they'll take the folks who would normally have gone to HCMC's ER.
posted by nickmark at 8:45 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Our state administration is Republican-run, and has become a bit notorious for penny-pinching on highway projects.

having just recently moved back to the state i've been wondering why the hell 169 from mankato to mpls has this huge miles long stretch of unfinished roadwork. they tore out all this highway and started laying the groundwork to put new work down and just stopped. it's down to one lane and not a single bit of work being done, i've never seen anything like it and i've driven between both coasts eight or nine times.
posted by andywolf at 8:53 PM on August 1, 2007


I have to drive 24 miles across a lake for a meeting tomorrow, and then back again. Except for those 60 odd minutes, during all of which I now expect to be white knuckled, my thoughts will be across the country for everyone even tangentially affected by this. Those pictures are plain awful.

As an aside, I hope no one is to blame, and that this was just a freak accident, because folks shouldn't have worry about things someone else was paid to design, maintain, fund, or in some way worry about.
posted by gordie at 8:54 PM on August 1, 2007


Ugh, nickmark, that's too close for comfort. Glad you are ok.
I've been over that bridge a time or two on my visits to Minnesota. The idea of something that you think of as terra firma giving way under you is freaky.
posted by The Deej at 8:55 PM on August 1, 2007


Oh, dear....my thoughts are with Twin City-ites. I had a few trips up when I was at the Iowa Writer's Workshop.
posted by brujita at 8:57 PM on August 1, 2007


Took the dog out half an hour ago. Normally, it would be just the sound of crickets. Tonight, copters, then more copters.
posted by gimonca at 9:04 PM on August 1, 2007


I'm in total shock. I went to UMN and for 3 years lived 6 blocks north of that bridge at Marcy Park (yay Riverton Coop). It was literally at the end of my street, I went over it a million times. Thank God for the IT-enabled grapevine, I was able to find out all my friends and family there are ok within 30 minutes of hearing about it.
posted by TungstenChef at 9:05 PM on August 1, 2007


I drove on the bridge a handful of times myself while visiting the Twin Cities about a dozen years ago. My thoughts are with everyone there.
posted by evilcolonel at 9:08 PM on August 1, 2007


I lived literally across the street from the Bridge's terminus when I was at the University.

Those of you who are not natives cannot have a sense of just how massive the thing was. If we end up with only seven dead, it will be astounding.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:12 PM on August 1, 2007


having just recently moved back to the state i've been wondering why the hell 169 from mankato to mpls has this huge miles long stretch of unfinished roadwork.

They've been doing construction on 169 for around 4 years, they have at least another 2 left, and that won't even remove all the traffic lights before Chaska. Hell, they're actually adding back a traffic light the construction was supposed to remove.
There's also been rumblings of making the portion through St. Peter free-access. Welcome back :)
posted by jmd82 at 9:13 PM on August 1, 2007


Glad everyone here appears to be okay.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 9:28 PM on August 1, 2007


Astro Zombie, send me an email if you're ever coming to Toronto. I'll be staying with some friends out of town.
posted by tehloki at 9:32 PM on August 1, 2007


You sure find out who your friends are in situations like this. "Are you ok" calls and texts pop up quickly.

From what I'm piecing together (after being glued to the TV for the last 5 hours) it sounds like the bridge went down slowly - not disintingrating instantly, but falling portion by portion. But I REALLY want to see the MNDOT camera footage.

There's some amazing footage and photos. I can't believe it though. And nothing particularly grim (blood, bodies in cars or anywhere in general).

Channel 11 (I think) had the former transportation commissioner, Elwyn Tinklinberg, on and he laid into this admin along with other over the past 10 years for slashing the transportation budget, which is true by and large.

And dammit, Don Shelby is a hell of an anchor.
posted by DonnieSticks at 9:36 PM on August 1, 2007


A small glimmer of good luck from one of the news channels, the school bus crashed on the south side of the bridge literally 1 block from the local Red Cross office. Even more fortunate than that, several Red Cross employees were crossing the bridge near the bus, saw it crash, and got all the children out. Even better, that Red Cross office just happened to be full of nurses in a class or something.

They just interviewed a guy who was on the bridge and helped rescue other victims, with his midwestern modesty he basically said, "ain't nothing special I rescued 10 people, those young fellers next to me saved 20."
posted by TungstenChef at 9:47 PM on August 1, 2007 [6 favorites]


I don't know if the technology exist to do such a thing but with the ubiquity of cell phones and the absolute need for them during such emergencies there needs to be some way to enhance the ability for cellphones to work during the hours after a disaster. Maybe all the cell networks can work together to consolidate their bandwidth or something but I remember the same thing happened on 9/11 in NYC. You just couldn't get a call through and in some cases it was life or death.
posted by any major dude at 9:50 PM on August 1, 2007


Fox News just interviewed an "expert" about how the government shouldn't have said this wasn't terrorism so quickly. In the past 2 minutes they've mentioned terrorism about 10 times.
posted by TungstenChef at 9:52 PM on August 1, 2007


. . . . . . .

Gut-wrenching.
posted by bwg at 9:58 PM on August 1, 2007


Fox news caters to morons. Terrorism is all they "understand" aside from "me hungy" and "make poopy."

Fortunately, one of my dear friend's partner was nearby but not involved. What a horrible thing.
posted by maxwelton at 9:58 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


biggity, have you heard from your stepfather?
posted by vetiver at 9:59 PM on August 1, 2007


I lived in Minnesota for about six and a half years. Took that bridge to work every single day.

Terrible, terrible. My heart goes out to everyone there. I hope you all find your loved ones safe and sound. I'm really astounded at the profoundly catastrophic failure of this bridge - it's almost surreal.

And the second thought I had (right after oh, shit!) was oh, man, that's going to be a multi-year NIGHTMARE for commutes...
posted by perilous at 10:03 PM on August 1, 2007


the ferry I take several times a year is over 80 years old and its hull is anywhere from 20% to 80% thinned from corrosion

Wow. That's brave of you.
posted by fshgrl at 10:08 PM on August 1, 2007


Astro Zombie : If we end up with only seven dead, it will be astounding.

*Fingers crossed. And finding myself agreeing with my old enemy AZ?... weird. Still, fingers crossed.*

Wisconsin has had some weird bridge shit to deal with over the years, but nothing like this.

I mean, I remember coworker talking about the time the road just disappeared in front of them. This seems... worse.
posted by quin at 10:16 PM on August 1, 2007


I live in the Marcy Holmes neighborhood which is accessible right off the University & 4th St. exit which is the first one just after you cross over the bridge. My mother is very happy that I am interning in DC for the summer and wasn't anywhere near the bridge, which I used pretty often to get to Uptown or as a quick way to get across the river and avoid traffic lights on the companion 10th Ave bridge next to it while coming home from classes on the West Bank of the university.

I recall always thinking that the 35W bridge looked pretty horrible, to me every time I crossed on my bike or on foot on the 10th ave bridge. I don't know what it was about it that made me suspicious, but I always had the distinct impression that something was wrong with it. Now that people have died and many more have been injured, I guess my ill feelings have come to fruition.

Funny that today we have Barack Obama give a big (important) speech about terrorism and finally going and hunting down al Qaeda in Pakistan where Bin Laden and his lieutenants are hiding and then we have a catastrophe of no one's intentional making that still takes lives and frightens people considerably. Where's the War on Shoddy Civil Engineering Projects?

As a side note, I actually was within 10 feet of Obama this afternoon, walking near the Capitol when he came out to get into a big black SUV with his Secret Service detail. It was just me, him, and his body guards. I was flummoxed on seeing him and couldn't figure out how to address him to introduce myself and shake his hand.

I was inspired the rest of the day until I caught word of this. In seeing the way that Minnesotans, particularly local MSP bloggers have responded to provide coverage has made this (temporary) Minnesota expatriate quite proud and has given me a renewed sense of optimism... that even if things do go wrong, if our leaders fail us, or terrorists fail to be human, or steel and concrete fail to secure our safe passage, at least we'll all be here for each other to help pick up the pieces. Thanks, Minnesota.
posted by Hammerikaner at 10:29 PM on August 1, 2007 [5 favorites]


Be easy Twin Cities, I got a lotta love for you guys.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:30 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 10:32 PM on August 1, 2007


Here in Seattle, we have two monster structures in the city limits alone which are at the end of their useful life, the Viaduct and the Evergreen Point (Highway 520) floating bridge. Each will require several billion dollars to replace--perhaps as much as ten billion for both.

Honestly, the ALV is shot, but it's not the scare that 520 is. A hard gale and the cables could snap and break up the pontoon sections. And then the pontoons will start to sink....

The entirety of interstate 5 through Seattle is elevated, fortunately on concrete (for the most part), though the main route out of town to the north is via a steel arch bridge, which is double-decked.

The Ship Canal Bridge is of similar structure to the 35W bridge, but it has been retrofit in the last ten years.

Heck, the ferry I take several times a year is over 80 years old and its hull is anywhere from 20% to 80% thinned from corrosion. Again, new ferries are hundreds of millions apiece.

And the Ilahee sprung a leak today. Good news is the state will be putting surplus money next year towards laying keels for new ferries.
posted by dw at 10:38 PM on August 1, 2007


A lot of people are focusing on inspection, but inspection only catches corrosion -- it doesn't normally catch design or construction errors. If the structural compromises they made in order to get such a wide, long unsupported span did not meet the strength guidelines they were supposed to, but came close (say), the bridge could well stand for forty years until the right combination of circumstance, vibration, fatigue and corrosion (all nominally within limits) came together.

The fact that this happened during construction is the biggest red flag. In a sense having the bridge under construction means it was getting the best inspection possible. There had to be engineers looking at the span's load and factors such as the weight/density of the concrete. Say the construction crews were mixing the concrete the wrong way, and you end up with 10% more weight just in the structure before a single car's weight is counted. They're going to be looking at that.

They'll also want to look at such things as the pylon foundations. If they were disturbed during any work on the waterway, the pylons could have slid out of alignment until the bridge was no longer supported.

I've read Why Buildings Fall and other books about engineering disasters. Very often, when they walk back the cat, they find out that what happened could have been predicted. If the engineers had known how the contractor was going to implement the plans, for instance. Or had known how soft the soil was, or about a fault, or the quality of the concrete or steel.

I just read about the Ashtabula bridge disaster the other night. After the inquest, one of the engineers who designed the bridge went home and shot himself.
posted by dhartung at 10:47 PM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Interestingly, dhartung, it was another Ohio bridge collapse, the Silver Bridge in 1967, that spurred the federal government to set up the national bridge inspection program.

You're right that it is usually a confluence of several factors that cause disasters like this, but while possible, I doubt any fault will be found with the original design engineers. The bridge likely has been load rated many times by other engineers since 1967 due to increases in truck weights as well as normal wear and tear.
posted by pitchblende at 11:11 PM on August 1, 2007


First off: Jeezus, I am rattled to the core by this. My wife takes the bridge at least once a week, and I must know 100 people who take it every day.

Meanwhile, I've seen an eerie theme repeat itself in some of the local TV news coverage tonight: variations on "...and then, incredibly, Joe Muscleshirt climbed down the rubble and risked his own life to help rescue some of the other victims. It's truly heroism in action here tonight, Don and Amelia." But isn't this what normal human beings do, fergawdsakes? Normal, breathing, sentient, feeling humans? This bizarre reaction to basic human compassion has made me wonder even more than before about the kind of personality that is attracted to the profession of "TV reporter."
posted by scatman at 11:11 PM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


isn't this what normal human beings do, fergawdsakes?

The point is, people need to be REMINDED that they are inherently good... since so much of the news is the bad things people do.
posted by evilcolonel at 11:24 PM on August 1, 2007 [4 favorites]


Looking at the photos it was pretty hard to think how you could survive this, but I guess a car is a good thing to have around you if you're gonna fall from such heights. I'm really glad to hear people are being pulled out alive.
posted by Anything at 11:24 PM on August 1, 2007


best images i've found so far
posted by nitsuj at 11:27 PM on August 1, 2007


Here's a good article on the most recent inspections and the condition rating of the bridge that came out of those inspections.

Here's a link (pdf) to the University of Minnesota report referred to in the article.
posted by pitchblende at 11:45 PM on August 1, 2007


dhartung, reminds me that Kipling mentioned that as well.
posted by hattifattener at 11:50 PM on August 1, 2007


This is incredibly scary. I grew up in MN and was just in St. Paul a few days ago visiting my parents.

I drove over that bridge many times. Given the small-townishness of the Twin Cities, it seems likely that someone I know was there. Of course my parents are fine, but I am thinking about all the old neighbors, high school friends, and family friends who I don't even have any way of contacting anymore. I hope they are all okay.

I can't help but feel connected to everyone who was affected by this, whether I know them or not. You live somewhere for 18 years and you grow to share an identity with everyone there, even though I moved to Chicago six years ago. They are still my neighbors.
posted by mai at 12:10 AM on August 2, 2007


Amazing, I was looking at the scene in Google Earth and the Red Cross is the closest building to where the school bus fell. It's 200 yards to the west of the bridge, with a freakin footpath leading to it. Those sure are some lucky kids.
posted by TungstenChef at 12:18 AM on August 2, 2007


Be easy Twin Cities, I got a lotta love for you guys.

God, yes. It's so good to hear from all of you living there. Minneapolis is my favorite midwest city and I've got some good friends from the area. Now I'm waiting to hear from them too and am hoping like hell they're okay. This is horrifying.
posted by melissa may at 1:45 AM on August 2, 2007


Peace to the Twin Cities.
posted by bardic at 3:42 AM on August 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm amazed at how many Mpls folks are here on MeFi. I hope everyone is all right. I lived in Dinkytown for a while and drove that bridge many times, and cannot imagine how it could collapse. My thoughts are with you all today.

(I'm in Seattle now, and some of the comments above about how high the 35W bridge was, and then mentioning Seattle's Ship Canal Bridge and the Aurora Bridge as also being steel arch bridges -- well, those are a little chilling, because the Ship Canal bridge is about 3 times as high as the 35W bridge, and the Aurora Bridge is nearly that high as well. I think I might not be driving north of the Canal for a while.)
posted by litlnemo at 3:45 AM on August 2, 2007


Good to hear from all the folks who are OK. Like others here, I live less than a mile from the bridge, and have crossed it a jillion times. I"m still in shock.

My power went out right at 6:05, so I'm assuming the electric lines feeding my neighborhood were either on or under the bridge. It meant I had no idea what the hell was going on for about an hour -- I just knew there were innumerable sirens going by, this long endless wail in the very near distance.

And yeah, it's going to be an utter mess here for years to come. They're routing everyone onto 280 which is sort of hilarious; 280 is a relic of the very early days of highway construction, and is sort of like Playskool My First Hiway!
posted by Kat Allison at 5:29 AM on August 2, 2007


Right now I'm hoping that the estimates of vehicles in the water is high. 50 or so vehicles could mean 75 or more killed. Not just for the victims, but because it would spoil the incredible stories of almost injury-free survival that are coming out, like the kids in the bus.

I've thought about bridge collapses a lot ever since the Sunshine Skyway went down after a ship hit it. I'd driven over that one and managed not to be completely terrified. (I'm usually OK with heights but the hump just seemed to go up and up and then you leveled off and yikes.) Reading about how people (including a bus) just drove off the edge of the bridge in the darkness, with one alert guy practically jumping in front of them to get them to stop, did something to my soul.

In this one, there seem to have been some real cases of unbelievable luck. There's a blue van on one of the heavily angled spans that looks like the driver hit the barrier on the driver's side in order to stop. And the van seems to have a wheelchair ramp sticking out the side. There are SUVs higher up that must have stopped before the roadway tilted so much. There are cars trapped in the gap just before a segment points down (or levels off). There's the trucker who got out even though his truck was squished in half. There seem to be many people who experienced their falls in sequences of smaller falls, which may have saved their lives.

Something in me wants to reconstruct all their experiences.
posted by dhartung at 5:29 AM on August 2, 2007


Not quite MNDOT, but here's a link to security camera video that shows the bridge collapsing.

.

via Fark
posted by phatkitten at 6:21 AM on August 2, 2007


280 is a relic of the very early days of highway construction, and is sort of like Playskool My First Hiway!

Heh--those weird little interchanges do feel like they were built for a sputtering Model-T.

They've closed access at Broadway and 280, apparently, to let traffic flow through without stopping at the light. Did anyone remind them that there's a huge U.S. Postal Service operation right at that intersection? And UPS and Fedex and everybody else just up the hill? All of which can't get downtown on 35W because the bridge is out?
posted by gimonca at 6:25 AM on August 2, 2007


In the news story some Public Official is quoted as saying something like "we have no reason to suspect TERRORISM at this time," and now Charmston just brought up "the morning of the 11th of September, 2001." Can't a shitty bridge that's been shittily maintained just collapse without somebody bringing up The Tragedy That Changed Everything?

Yes, the vast majority of structural failures are not terrorism-related. That doesn't mean we have to lobotomize ourselves to remove the part of our brain that asks whether this instance was due to terrorism or not, even if it's a very slim possibility, and quickly rejected. It's a reasonable question to ask.

That said, we have no reason to suspect SERIAL KILLERS SHARKS at this time either.

While the probability of a bridge collapse due to terrorism is quite small, I'd wager it's still several orders of magnitude larger than the probability of a bridge collapse due to sharks.

If I may say so, when Homeland Security is called upon to address every single tragedy in this country and assure us that it's not a terror attack, something is wrong.

Yes, and the something which is wrong is the fact that we have had a major terrorist attack in the U.S. within the memory of most people alive today.

On a separate note, this won't stop me from doing the Mackinac Bridge Walk next month.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:45 AM on August 2, 2007


this really does just screw things up for the metro, doesn't it? holy crap. the long-term ramifications of this are pretty heavy. Pawlenty's on my shitlist right now, more than ever before.
posted by EricGjerde at 10:35 PM


Yeah, they're saying 2 years minimum before there's a replacement. That's a long time for serious disruption, especially given that the 62/35W reconstruction is moving at about the same timeline, causing intermittent problems.

I started typing out a half-hearted defense of pawlenty, along the lines that any other Governor would be liekly to neglect infrastructure so that there'd be money for sexxxy new highways or baseball stadiums... but having typed it, I deleted. Because fuck that-- making sure that the state's transportation infrastrusture is your fucking job if you're the Governor, full stop. Even Jesse fucking Ventura understood that. Another Governor probably would have neglected infrastructure, too; but maybe without Pawlenty's infantile tax fetishism, maybe it wouldn't be as bad. Who knows?

If we end up with only seven dead, it will be astounding.
posted by Astro Zombie


I went to bed thinking the same thing. But the chief of the MPD made it sound this morning like the number's low because they haven't started counting people in the river yet.

A lot of people are focusing on inspection, but inspection only catches corrosion -- it doesn't normally catch design or construction errors. If the structural compromises they made in order to get such a wide, long unsupported span did not meet the strength guidelines they were supposed to, but came close (say), the bridge could well stand for forty years until the right combination of circumstance, vibration, fatigue and corrosion (all nominally within limits) came together.

The most irritating thing about the construction of the bridge is that there is no need for navigation that far up the river (although maybe that was different in 1967; I can't say). The only commercial dock operating in Minneapolis is a gravel dock kept open pretty much only for civic pride; otherwise, all of the barge traffic docks in St. Paul, several miles downstream. The bridge had a weird structure, with no supports in the water so as not to impede navigation. That was unneccessary.
posted by COBRA! at 7:11 AM on August 2, 2007


Yeah, it's going to be a while before they have all the bodies recovered and a firm count of casualities, given how tangled some of the cars seem to be with the debris. That's got to be a terrible place to do water recovery, too, since it's right downstream from the Lock and Dam and the currents can be pretty strong. I guess the drought we're having isn't entirely a bad thing; at least it means the water is lower and slower than they might be.
posted by Kat Allison at 7:16 AM on August 2, 2007


(...er, than IT might be. Ahem.)

The blame for long-term neglect of infrastructure is something that can (and will) be laid at a whole lot of doors, but maybe at least this will get it some attention, though as COBRA! notes, basic civic maintenance is sadly unsexy. But I tell you what, after this? Good luck to the Vikings in getting public funding for their dream stadium. I think tax dollars will have plenty of other places to go for the foreseeable future.
posted by Kat Allison at 7:22 AM on August 2, 2007


Very true. Down at the Minnehaha Dog Park, you can walk way way out- 20 feet, in a few spots- on exposed sand that used to be underwater in the river.

Does anybody know where the intakes are for the city water supply? And what's the environmental impact of having 50+ cars leaking gas, oil, and antifreeze into the river?
posted by COBRA! at 7:23 AM on August 2, 2007


From the Strib:

A former chairman of the National Transportation Safety board said this morning he was intrigued by a 2001 University of Minnesota study that found signs of "fatigue cracking" in the bridge supports, though he noted that a later report apparently concluded that the bridge was in no immediate danger and did not need major repairs.

"I think that decision is going to come under new scrutiny," he said.

He also was asked about a 2005 federal study found that the bridge was "structurally deficient."

"A structurally deficient bridge might be one not adequate for the traffic it takes, but not necessarily dangerous," Burnett said. "But a lot of structurally deficient bridges are dangerous."

posted by COBRA! at 7:31 AM on August 2, 2007


Thinking I'll bike over to the 10th Ave bridge to see the wreckage.... I was sitting on the front porch having my after work beer when I heard.... tragic.
posted by djseafood at 7:51 AM on August 2, 2007




wow. that was intense... i know about 5 people who were on that bridge yesterday afternoon. The day before my GF and I were on it and the top was completely torn up... like really torn apart and down to 2 lanes ... The jackhammers and surface removal equipment was hitting the bridge as hard as I have ever seen a road way being resurfaced.

Curiously - the bridge was completely closed this weekend - why?

I hope this helps the twin cities reconsider its mass transit strategy going forward.
posted by specialk420 at 7:56 AM on August 2, 2007


from a great friend of mine and minneapolis resident:

"ense that there is probably another report, done a year or two earlier that essentially condemned the bridge--and that a new report was needed in order to justify not spending the money to rebuild the truss under the bridge.
The one sentence in the report that says anything about anything says, essentially, that the new way of testing stress that they have derived can justify not re-building the truss, which can save the state all the money that would be involved in rebuilding the truss, and that the company hired to develop the test and assess the situation could use the new system to assess other bridges around the state. It is hideously transparent; they were selling their services, their wears, to a state and federal government which wanted to hear a certain result--more than hear the reality. It is like when a golden child polishes their responses in order to be perfectly in tune with a narcissistic parent--rather than be genuine or authentic. It is more sad, than it is infuriating, at this point--sad because it this stuff is so pervasive right now as a way of doing life and society. Anyway, the report, while it was commissioned by MinDOT and relayed through the UofM Engineering Department, it was not produced by them--it was produced by a private engineering firm. And you get the sense that the "new" way of assessing the bridge was, itself, a contrivance of a kind--like how we talk about average daily temperature based, not on the last 100 years but the previous 10--diminishing the scope of attention: "well, in the last two minutes the bridge hasn't gotten any worse for wear" and "only a crazy person, looking to spend other people's money, would conclude from the evidence that there is a project, here, worth doing."
"
posted by specialk420 at 7:59 AM on August 2, 2007


What report is that?
posted by smackfu at 8:11 AM on August 2, 2007




Does anybody know where the intakes are for the city water supply?

North of town. The water plant itself is in Columbia Heights. (During the drought of 1988 I remember the local media counting down the inches as the water level dropped, warning that too much further and the city would be sucking air. And shipping in water on tanker trucks, etc. Never got quite that far down.)

Thinking I'll bike over to the 10th Ave bridge

Closed, per the media.

I hope this helps the twin cities reconsider its mass transit strategy going forward.

Just that morning, there was a news report out that light rail between the downtowns could cost another $900 million (?) because the Washington Ave. bridge couldn't support the weight of the trains the way they had been told it would.
posted by gimonca at 8:12 AM on August 2, 2007


Einstürzende brücken

Einstürzende Altbauen.

I've thought about bridge collapses a lot ever since the Sunshine Skyway went down after a ship hit it.

That's immediately what I thought of when I saw this.
posted by oaf at 9:18 AM on August 2, 2007


Kat Allison: basic civic maintenance is sadly unsexy

In my town there were complaints about expansion and improvement of a pumping station for bringing storm drain runoff up to the level of a river even when it's storm-swollen & levee-bound being an eyesore.

Post-Katrina, I thought the shiny new generator, diesel tank and pumps looked nice on public view. Easy to see if some basic preventative maintenance is ignored and while dissonant in a redwood forest, I liked the industrial form-follows-function look.

Now it's surrounded by a rust-red fence to "blend in."

Roads, strip malls and telephone poles already remind us of our civilization and "detract" from nature. Leaving some of the infrequently-needed infrastructure exposed seems incrementally a small step up in the general ugliness of human impact on the world.

dontcoveritup.org mebbe?
posted by morganw at 9:26 AM on August 2, 2007




.

this is another preventable tragedy, and many other pieces of our infrastructure are in worse shape. (I was locked out of my office bldg for 6 days because of our steampipe explosion)

Is the NTSB head another Brownie who's doing a heckuva job?
posted by amberglow at 10:02 AM on August 2, 2007


and 5 million from the Feds is an insult. Just appalling.
posted by amberglow at 10:03 AM on August 2, 2007


"and has become a bit notorious for penny-pinching on highway projects"

Funny, last time I was in Minnesota I said "I wish our roads in California were this nice."

Trade you any day!

Don't forget, we just had a section of raised freeway collapse out here a few months ago.
posted by drstein at 10:55 AM on August 2, 2007


I've noticed the surface of our interstates (MN) tend to be better than the surrounding states, noticeable difference going into WI, and SD. Haven't ridden the interstates into IA or ND in awhile so can't comment on those.
Amberglow, I think the 5 million is just an initial emergency funding to get the debris cleaned up and detours effectively set up, stuff like that. Supposedly there will be future funding for the actual reconstruction, Oberstar is both a MN house member and as of the last election is now the head of the powerful transportation and infrastructure committee. Whatever else you say about him, he's good for funneling those transportation funds into his state when able.
posted by edgeways at 11:09 AM on August 2, 2007


Don't forget, we just had a section of raised freeway collapse out here a few months ago.

How is a 170-foot section of a freeway overpass collapsing at 4am because of a fire caused by a fuel tanker running into a support at ALL comparable to a nearly 2,000-foot bridge spontaneously collapsing into a river during rush hour?
posted by phatkitten at 11:10 AM on August 2, 2007


I've noticed the surface of our interstates (MN) tend to be better than the surrounding states, noticeable difference going into WI, and SD. Haven't ridden the interstates into IA or ND in awhile so can't comment on those.

Weirdly, I've noticed the opposite on 35 heading south into Iowa. Totally sucky road north of the border, then sweet, fat pavement in Iowa. I guess it just varies from road to road.
posted by COBRA! at 11:25 AM on August 2, 2007


The NYT is reporting that differing reports (from transportation officals and the red cross) put the number of missing between 20 and 65. (They are also saying only 4 are confirmed dead, although last night's report said 7). There are about 10 families still at the Holiday Inn waiting for news about missing loved ones.
posted by mai at 11:29 AM on August 2, 2007


Some amazing photos from the part of the bridge deck that landed in the water.
posted by cerebus19 at 11:34 AM on August 2, 2007


My office is about a 1/4 mile from the bridge, and I usually drive over it several times a week. I walked down there at lunchtime today, but it is very difficult to see much. The police have cordoned off a large area on the banks surrounding the bridge (I'd guess maybe 1/4 mile up and down the river on both sides), as well as the pedestrian and driving bridges nearest to the collapse. The bridge itself was just downriver from a lock and dam system, and the majority of the bridge is low enough in the water at this point that you can't see it over the edge of the small waterfall drop if you're looking from up-river at the edge of the police line. All you can see is that chunk of girders on the north side of the river, sticking up out of the trees at about a 75% angle where the lead-in to the bridge used to be.

The riverbanks at lunchtime were full of people coming out of downtown to see what they could see. Gawkers and rubberneckers at accident scenes typically piss me off, but in this instance I really got the sense that we were all trying to get visual confirmation that this had actually happened. Even after watching it for hours on TV last night, the whole thing seemed surreal. Bridges don't just collapse into rivers. Maybe if they're bombed, but MN doesn't get bombed. The whole thing is so fantastic (not in the good sense, but the sense that it seems more akin to fantasy than reality). I overheard several people express what I had been thinking when I decided to go look - that we could still barely believe it, even looking at it with our own eyes.

Here's a really amazing slideshow from last night of photos taken by bystanders.
posted by vytae at 12:00 PM on August 2, 2007


Is the Stone Arch Bridge open to pedestrians? If I were going to go for visual confirmation (I totally get what you were saying there), that's where I'd head, I think.
posted by COBRA! at 12:11 PM on August 2, 2007


The bridge had a weird structure, with no supports in the water so as not to impede navigation. That was unneccessary.

OTOH, it prevented a Sunshine Skyway type disaster from happening, too.

The Ship Canal Bridge here in Seattle also has its supports out of the water so as not to "impede traffic." But the Portage Bay area is fairly narrow, and back in the mid 1960s they were still repairing big fishing boats in the Northlake area.

And even then, they impede navigation in one form or another. Consider that when they built the Aurora Bridge, they had to move all the high masted ships out of Lake Union.

But both the Aurora and Ship Canal bridges received earhquake retrofits relatively recently, so something like the 35W collapse is less likely.
posted by dw at 12:11 PM on August 2, 2007


75 degree angle, not percent... among other corrections. Apparently this thing has me too on edge to proof-read.
posted by vytae at 12:19 PM on August 2, 2007


drstein writes "Don't forget, we just had a section of raised freeway collapse out here a few months ago."

There was another one on Tuesday. Lots essential transportation infrastructure is in bad shape; hopefully this tragedy will make people sit up and take notice.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:19 PM on August 2, 2007


The Stone Arch Bridge is not open to pedestrians or anybody else right now, just emergency vehicles. You can go down into Mill Ruins Park at the end of the bridge on the downtown side, but like I said, you can't see much from there.
posted by vytae at 12:21 PM on August 2, 2007


Incidentally, I have to say that reading comments on other sites about this incident gives me a new appreciation for Metafilter. Commenting wise this place isn't perfect, but it's a lot closer then *gasp* Fark, or even the comment section to those photos vytae linked to.
posted by edgeways at 12:24 PM on August 2, 2007


The bridge had a weird structure, with no supports in the water so as not to impede navigation.

That struck me as odd too, because almost all the bridges to the north and south of this one have supports in the middle of them, often several. If you can navigate around pylons and into several lock-and-dam structures in such a short span of river, why would pylons from one more bridge make a difference? That said, I doubt that the lack of in-river support has much to do with the collapse. I mean, if having a stretch that long without pylons underneath was intrinsically unsound, they wouldn't have designed the bridge that way in the first place. Right?
posted by vytae at 12:25 PM on August 2, 2007


Gawkers and rubberneckers at accident scenes typically piss me off, but in this instance I really got the sense that we were all trying to get visual confirmation that this had actually happened. Even after watching it for hours on TV last night, the whole thing seemed surreal.

Exactly. I was down there around noon today on my bike, very embarrassed, and yet feeling this terrible need to actually see it, since I'm still having a very hard time believing it. But they've got the areas immediately surrounding the bridge cordoned off, though the larger vicinity is thronged with people.
posted by Kat Allison at 12:35 PM on August 2, 2007


That struck me as odd too, because almost all the bridges to the north and south of this one have supports in the middle of them, often several. If you can navigate around pylons and into several lock-and-dam structures in such a short span of river, why would pylons from one more bridge make a difference?

Yeah, I noticed that, too. I got the "no support so as not to impede navigation" tidbit from local news (KARE11, I think, but I bopped around a lot), and it's entirely possible that there's a different reason for the structure.

And point taken that the lack of in-river support wasn't necessarily the reason for the collapse. I did read in the Strib this morning that the bridge was unusually lacking in structural redundancy, but that wasn't necessarily because of the support placement.

Latest odd news update: the Corps of Engineers is using the dam network to lower the level of this stretch of river, to help with the cleanup and recovery effort.
posted by COBRA! at 12:38 PM on August 2, 2007


Tax-cut death toll
posted by homunculus at 1:10 PM on August 2, 2007


The other reason to avoid in-water piers/foundations is to try to avoid the problem of scour. This is where currents, waves, etc. can undermine a bridge's foundation by washing out the soil and rock that surrounds and supports it.
posted by pitchblende at 1:12 PM on August 2, 2007


I've just heard that they're calling off the search effort for bodies, at least temporarily, because the currents and debris in the water are making it too dangerous.

I got the "no support so as not to impede navigation" tidbit from local news

Yeah, I heard that from a number of news sources too. It seems to be the standard explanation, even though it doesn't make a lot of logical sense (from my completely non-expert point of view, IANA engineer, barge driver, etc.).
posted by vytae at 1:43 PM on August 2, 2007


The aforementioned I-40 bridge collapse in Webbers Falls, Oklahoma strongly indicates that piers in the water can be quite dangerous. They can get run into by barges, especially when the river is narrow, as it appears to be at the site of the recent collapse.
posted by wierdo at 1:46 PM on August 2, 2007


(self-link) a few photos I took of the underside of the bridge, just a few weeks ago...

posted by bhayes82 at 2:02 PM on August 2, 2007




Supposedly there will be future funding for the actual reconstruction, Oberstar is both a MN house member and as of the last election is now the head of the powerful transportation and infrastructure committee. Whatever else you say about him, he's good for funneling those transportation funds into his state when able.

Doesn't the administration believe that all this should be State and private responsibility? I bet you don't get more money from DC, unless Oberstar earmarks some. We didn't get any money from DC for our steampipe explosion, i believe.
posted by amberglow at 2:10 PM on August 2, 2007


I'm a big confused by the explanation of navigability as well. Nearly every other bridge in Minneapolis downstream of 35W -- Ford Parkway, Lake Street, Franklin Ave, Cedar / 10th Ave -- are all very similar concrete-arch bridges with pylons in the river. Even the I-94 crossing, while not a concrete arch, has pylons in the river.

Cedar / 10th Ave bridge is only a hundred yards downstream of 35W; if that wasn't a hindrance, why would additional footings for the 35W bridge be a problem?

Not sayin' there should've been -- just wondering at the explanation.
posted by Ickster at 2:11 PM on August 2, 2007


bhayes82 and others, they're asking people with photos/videos/eyewitness accounts to contact authorities if that info might help the experts figure out what caused this. I feel like your pictures (especially with the rust underneath!) might be useful to them. I missed the number on the radio a couple minutes ago, but I'm sure you could find it online.
posted by vytae at 2:15 PM on August 2, 2007


Doesn't the administration believe that all this should be State and private responsibility? I bet you don't get more money from DC, unless Oberstar earmarks some. We didn't get any money from DC for our steampipe explosion, i believe.

Interstates are Federal.

and, anyway, Oberstar has a reputation as a go-to guy for pork
posted by COBRA! at 2:15 PM on August 2, 2007


I accidentally just logged out an deleted my last comment. Will try again:

The bridge, as far as I can tell, is literally feet downstream from a small damn. The turbulant flow from the dam (which is part of what is making recovery efforts so dangerous) might have an effect on pylons in the river if they had been placed there. I am just speculating.

On the other hand, because of the dam, any boats coming up that way (and there are few - an earlier commentator noted that most barge traffic stops in St. Paul some miles downstream) must go through the lock on the side of the river, so pylons in the middle would not have impeded navigability.

I am obviously just speculating here. I do not know when the dam was put in, if there used to be more traffic, or any of that.
posted by mai at 2:16 PM on August 2, 2007


They can get run into by barges, especially when the river is narrow, as it appears to be at the site of the recent collapse.

And why don't you want a bridge pier to be run into by a barge? Because it might collapse.
posted by smackfu at 2:16 PM on August 2, 2007


I'd just set this picture as my wallpaper last week; it gives a pretty good indication that one more pylon in the river wouldn't have made much difference to barge traffic.

Sigh.

I'd personally like to see another concrete arch replace the 35W bridge, but I doubt that will happen.
posted by Ickster at 2:23 PM on August 2, 2007


ah, cobra.

I bet Halliburton (and others) gets a gigantic national infrastructure contract out of this--their last gasp of rewarding cronies.
posted by amberglow at 2:27 PM on August 2, 2007


Huh. The Cedar Ave bridge (the arched one right next to 35W in all of the pictures, including Ickster's) was finished in 1929, killing my theory that all of the bridges with piers in the river were built after the decline in barge traffic this far upriver. So it remains mysterious.
posted by COBRA! at 2:37 PM on August 2, 2007


amberglow I appreciate a lot of your posts, but I think you might be able to tone it down a notch here. The 5 million is for clean up, interstates are federal and get a lot of funding from the feds because of that, and construction for these types of things are put out on bid and the process is run by the State not the federal govt. While Pawlenty is a Republican he is not exactly part of the Washington cadre that deals with Halliburton. I seriously doubt anyone in the State would trust Halliburton, even if the company where able to bid on such things.
I think you can let the animosity towards the feds relax a little. I, personally, would be surprised if Bush even thinks of this again after the weekend.
posted by edgeways at 2:41 PM on August 2, 2007


I think you can let the animosity towards the feds relax a little. I, personally, would be surprised if Bush even thinks of this again after the weekend.
That actually enlarges the animosity, edgeways. Our shared infrastructure is vitally important, and has been neglected for years. Given that New Orleans is still devastated, i'm watching what they do in MN closely--we all should be.
posted by amberglow at 2:50 PM on August 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


The 5 million is for clean up

Yeah, the article I saw emphasized that was the amount that was requested by the state.
posted by smackfu at 2:54 PM on August 2, 2007


confused by the explanation of navigability as well

One of the elephant-in-the-living-room items to start surfacing about now is that there just isn't that much water traffic through the area. Most of the grain-and-gravel loading happens in Saint Paul. One of the media outlets quoted a guy down in Iowa saying "we don't expect it to affect barge traffic very much".

The only company I can think of off the top of my head that'll really be hurting are the riverboat excursion cruises from Boom Island that go through the locks.

There's a variety of people with grandiose plans for redeveloping bits of the river, both downtown and on the Northside. They may point out the lack of traffic to be disrupted in the next year or two.
posted by gimonca at 3:02 PM on August 2, 2007


I bet Halliburton (and others) gets a gigantic national infrastructure contract out of this--their last gasp of rewarding cronies.

I know I'm walking into this, but how? The states let contracts on interstate highway projects. Congress gives the states money, and the states build with it.

Of course, sometimes states decide to build something else with the money and the mayhem ensues, e.g. the I-470 money going to the Sixteenth Street Mall.
posted by dw at 4:55 PM on August 2, 2007


One of the elephant-in-the-living-room items to start surfacing about now is that there just isn't that much water traffic through the area.

Again, we're talking about in 1967, when the bridge was built. Clearly there was more traffic, even if there wasn't as much then as in the heyday of the area. But many of the major mills were still operational into the 1980s. (I don't know if any still are.)

The other thing is that the navigability of the MIssissippi River is wholly under the authority of the Army Corps of Engineers and applicable federal law. ISTM that the river is particularly narrow at that point and any construction for a pier could easily have impinged on navigation.

This isn't even a particularly long truss arch span. 140m doesn't even register on the list of longest truss bridges. I wouldn't have called it remarkable or rash to choose a truss arch in this situation, and it did stand safely for forty years. The truss itself may have design flaws, or have had flaws that developed over time from environmental conditions, or whatnot, but just being a truss isn't hte cause of this disaster, nor is the length itself. The Japanese have, just im the last ten years, built four suspension bridges with main spans ten times as long as the I-35W bridge main span.

Whatever errors took place here, I don't think they can be laid at the doorstep of anyone who said they coudln't have piers in the water. It's just the challenge they had to work around. How they worked around it is much more germane to the question. It could be a design error, or a manufacturing defect, or anything.

Besides, as noted, piers can present their own dangers.
posted by dhartung at 4:57 PM on August 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


From the picture Ickster put up, it shows that one of the piers supporting the main span is in fact in the water, while the other one is up the bank, beside the locks structure at the dam.

But that pier in the water is the one clearly visible in the video of the bridge collapse taken by the Army CoE security camera, and it doesn't appear to be shifting or tilting prior to or during the main span collapse. So it would appear scour and undermining of that bridge pier is less likely a cause of this than metal fatigue and fracture.
posted by pitchblende at 5:37 PM on August 2, 2007


one item i have not seen mentioned anywhere is they just put deicing equipment on that bridge a year or two ago
that kept is soaked with deicing chems all winter long....

how much was that stuff leaking through and weakening the metal below?
posted by specialk420 at 5:43 PM on August 2, 2007


Lots essential transportation infrastructure is in bad shape; hopefully this tragedy will make people sit up and take notice.

And... what? The USA is stone-cold broke, wth trillion-dollar deficits. There is no money left for infrastructure maintenance, repair, and replacement.

A picking-on-fat-people thought: in 2007 rush-hour traffic, that bridge was probably supporting 50% more weight than it had been designed for.

Finallly, gotta ask: does the death toll still stand at 7? I sure hope so. Fingers crossed for y'all, and I really wish a few of you would end our suspense and tell us your loved ones made it home!
posted by five fresh fish at 6:13 PM on August 2, 2007


Did anyone else notice the bridge fell on a train?
posted by kirkaracha at 6:13 PM on August 2, 2007


fff: They've so far identified four definite fatalities, but the death toll will certainly rise once the estimated 20-30 missing people, who are presumably in cars still in the river, are recovered. (Numbers are estimates, and may well end up higher). It could be a while until any final count is available; the cars are entangled with debris, and though the Corps of Engineers is taking steps to lower the river level, the currents (just downstream from St. Anthony Falls) make this a dangerous place to work, apart from the hazards of shifting rubble.
posted by Kat Allison at 6:31 PM on August 2, 2007


A picking-on-fat-people thought: in 2007 rush-hour traffic, that bridge was probably supporting 50% more weight than it had been designed for.

Please show your work.
posted by Cyrano at 6:32 PM on August 2, 2007


Cyrano: Gas usage increases as weight gains. And vehicles are heavier, too.

Add 25lbs per person on the bridge, plus increase the average weight of the vehicles (so many SUVs and trucks these days!) The 50% is an exaggeration, but there are clearly going to be some effect.

The increased weight plus the effect of deicing equipment that has potentially saturated the concrete with harmful, weakening chemicals and you have a recipe for disaster.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:20 PM on August 2, 2007


This thread's in decidedly late innings, but as an epitaph of sorts for those who've died, let me share with y'all a poem first inflicted upon me by my undergraduate advisor when I was an engineering student:

The Hymn of Breaking Strain
Rudyard Kipling
1935

The careful text-books measure
(Let all who build beware!)
The load, the shock, the pressure
Material can bear.
So, when the buckled girder
Lets down the grinding span,
The blame of loss, or murder,
Is laid upon the man.
Not of the Stuff - the Man!

But, in our daily dealing
With stone and steel, we find
The Gods have no such feeling
Of justice toward mankind.
To no set guage they make us, -
For no laid course prepare -
And presently o'ertake us
With loads we cannot bear:
Too merciless to bear.

The prudent text-books give it
In tables at the end -
The stress that shears a rivet
Or makes a tie-bar bend -
What traffic wrecks macadam -
What concrete should endure -
But we, poor Sons of Adam,
Have no such literature,
To warn us or make sure!

We hold all Earth to plunder -
All Time and Space as well -
Too wonder-stale to wonder
At each new miracle;
Till in the mid-illusion
Of Godhead 'neath our hand,
Falls multiple confusion
On all we did or planned -
The mighty works we planned.

We only of Creation
(Oh, luckier bridge and rail!)
Abide the twin-damnation -
To fail and know we fail.
Yet we - by which sole token
We know we once were Gods -
Take shame in being broken
However great the odds -
The Burden or the Odds.

Oh, veiled and secret Power
Whose paths we seek in vain,
Be with us in our hour
Of overthrow and pain;
That we - by which sure token
We know Thy ways are true -
In spite of being broken,
Because of being broken,
May rise and build anew.
Stand up and build anew
!
posted by pax digita at 7:30 PM on August 2, 2007 [3 favorites]


specialk420: I Don't think a few years of deicing is going to be the main problem.

five fresh fish: One of the reasons the traffic was pretty much at a crawl was the bridge was restricted down to about one lane so actually with 1/2 or less of the vehicles on it as normal I'd make a wild guess the bridge was actually holding a lot less weight then it did back in the day.

I'm pretty sure the confirmed deaths are actually about 4 dead, with some number between 8 and 30 unaccounted for. Bound to be a few others that didn't make it, heres hoping it is fewer than more.
posted by edgeways at 8:27 PM on August 2, 2007


Be careful edgeways; remember, if we're anything but blindly optimistic, the terrorists win.
posted by tehloki at 8:30 PM on August 2, 2007


The Japanese have, just im the last ten years, built four suspension bridges with main spans ten times as long as the I-35W bridge main span.

But this bridge didn't have any suspension cables, it was just the arch underneath holding it up. Does anybody know whether it was considered a particularly wide span for the type of support it had? (I'm not saying the wide arch was at fault; I still believe they wouldn't have built the thing that way if the original design seemed unsafe. I'm just curious about how this bridge compares, if you've got apples to apples.)
posted by vytae at 8:53 PM on August 2, 2007


Also, the best places I've found for updates are WCCO's website and the Minnesota Public Radio website, if anybody from out of town is still trying to follow this story.

Tonight they identified the 4 confirmed deaths, but there's a hint of good news on the wcco site:

Meanwhile, the initial number of people missing in the collapse was downgraded from an initially estimated 20 to a possible eight, according to Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek.

Their casualty estimates have turned out to be pretty wrong each time so far, but it's worth hoping... It's nice when they keep downgrading the number.
posted by vytae at 8:57 PM on August 2, 2007


the bridge was restricted down to about one lane so actually with 1/2 or less of the vehicles on it as normal

Well, there goes my dumb theory.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:04 PM on August 2, 2007


five fresh fish, I know you are just throwing things out there to see what sticks, but this is not the time to throw out wild, half-baked speculation. The whole idea that somehow fat Americans or the weight of SUVs is to blame is so completely laughable, I'm shocked you bothered to write the post. It's like saying that the weight of the suitcase in your state room caused the sinking of the Titanic. Bridges can and must be designed to carry varying weight including fairly massive semi trucks carrying large loads. These bridges are not designed to risk coming anywhere near their maximum capacity even if completely filled with the fatest people you could imagine in the largest vehicles on the road. While it is possible heavy truck traffic increased the rate of degredation, it cannot be blamed for a suddend collapse. Common sense should have told you that.

As for the deicer, that study you linked was pretty inconclusive as to the actual roadways and says nothing about the deicer in relation to underlying supports and infrastructure of something like a bridge. This is not a situation where the pitting of the upper roadway was the problem. I note that they were resurfacing the road at the time. Furthermore, if you've ever driven that stretch of road, or anywhere else in Minnesota in winter, you'd know that deicing isn't an option, it is necessary for safety.

No, the problem has to lie in the support stucture of the bridge. Whether the construction led to the tipping point or not remains to be investigated.

So, I urge people to not throw out these distracting, unhelpful speculations. Trying to make some point about fat, SUV driving Americans (and I note that Minnesota is the fittest state in the nation) just isn't justified.
posted by Muddler at 4:11 AM on August 3, 2007


Actually, dhartung, I wasn't worrying over how the bridge was built, I'm referring to plans that were floated a couple of years ago to put a water park development just upstream, where the falls are. People were talking about having some sort of whitewater rafting thing on the side. Further north, between Boom Island Park and the city limits, it's mostly industrial, but there are calls to rework the area there into parkland as well. If the river is totally blocked at this point, and it doesn't make a difference on the part of the river to the north, that's a talking point for people with those plans.
posted by gimonca at 4:44 AM on August 3, 2007


Bridges can and must be designed to carry varying weight including fairly massive semi trucks carrying large loads. These bridges are not designed to risk coming anywhere near their maximum capacity even if completely filled with the fatest people you could imagine in the largest vehicles on the road. While it is possible heavy truck traffic increased the rate of degredation, it cannot be blamed for a suddend collapse. Common sense should have told you that.

I don't think that's always true--traffic was different in the 60s when this bridge was built, and i don't think there were trucks as big and heavy as we have today (or as many 18-wheelers every day, etc).

It's why they changed the structural requirements to reinforce bridges like this later in the 60s, after this one had already been built.
posted by amberglow at 7:40 AM on August 3, 2007


this is not the time to throw out wild, half-baked speculation

Like the terrahism meme? C'mon, get real, speculation is the name of the game.

Several bridges have collapsed over this past year or two. There is something amiss. Until the governments get their shit together and take the problem seriously, by hiring competent and caring engineering firms and releasing the results to the public, speculation is all we've got.

I will admit, of course, that the lard-ass comment was trollful. Although there's an epidemic of obesity in the USA, it probably isn't so much as to destroy bridges.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:46 AM on August 3, 2007


I bike across a really old bridge in Philadelphia on a daily basis (South Street bridge) that runs across the Schuykill river.

The bridge is so old that chunks of concrete fall down from the bridge on to the I-76 underneath, and you can see the road below you as you bike past.

I can only imagine that the drivers can't see the road underneath them, and that they take the integrity of the bridge for granted, as I suppose we all do when we use shared, public services.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:49 AM on August 3, 2007


I'm late to the party here, but I live in Whittier (~2 miles) and work in WBOB (hi belladonna!), damn near spitting distance from the bridge. I biked into work yesterday, past the cops who demanded to know my business, and was told to leave by my boss 10 minutes later. I snapped a few pictures from the 5th floor and top level of the parking ramp before I had to leave. They closed the building to U of M employees again today to make room for emergency workers/government officials.

Everyone I know is ok, but a friend of a friend was on the bus with the school kids and broke both feet (!?) and got a ton of stitches.
posted by look busy at 8:12 AM on August 3, 2007


i'm glad it wasn't worse for that person, look.

They're saying there are still people dead in their cars underwater?
posted by amberglow at 8:41 AM on August 3, 2007


Does anybody know whether it was considered a particularly wide span for the type of support it had?

It's as wide as the Ship Canal Bridge -- eight lanes.
posted by dw at 8:44 AM on August 3, 2007


They're saying there are still people dead in their cars underwater?

Yeah, they're taking the recovery really slowly because of unsafe conditions down there- still-shifting bridge sections, river currents, what have you.
posted by COBRA! at 8:52 AM on August 3, 2007


It could take a while to get all the victims out -- it sounds like in some cases it'll require shifting big chunks of debris, which is not only hazardous, as COBRA! pointed out, but also may be something they'll want to postpone until they've finished the investigation (sort of like leaving a crime scene intact until the forensics scientists have done their thing).

At least this didn't happen during spring flood season, or (possibly even worse) midwinter. If you *have* to be doing underwater search in the river, August-Sept. is about the least bad time for it.
posted by Kat Allison at 9:11 AM on August 3, 2007


Yep, and jagged edges of concrete, and twisted rebar, and you can't see jack $hit swimming around down there. A seemingly leisurely current, once you have to struggle against it continuously, steadily saps even the most stalwart swimmer/diver, and you can get into deep sneakers without realizing it right way.

I cringed to see TV footage of a firefighter or policewoman diver poking around one derelict SUV as I ate breakfast this morning. She was partly above the surface, but from the slow way she was moving, she seemed pretty worn out. They can send divers down in shifts, but the constant work against the current is probably taking its toll physically, apart from the psychological impact of looking for and discovering the dead.
posted by pax digita at 9:17 AM on August 3, 2007


why don't they just close off the dam above?
posted by amberglow at 9:43 AM on August 3, 2007


... Just as the government is responsible for protecting the public from terrorism, it is equally responsible for protecting citizens against lethal failures of bridges, roadways, other transportation systems, and underground structures that can cause collapses. And developing a far more effective and efficient strategy for improving public security against disasters like the one in Minneapolis requires the leadership of individuals who actually believe in government’s capacity to solve problems ...
posted by amberglow at 10:03 AM on August 3, 2007


why don't they just close off the dam above?

The Army Corps has lowered the water level in the collapse area by two feet. I don't know that the lock and dam system really has the ability to just close it off entirely. There are probably barges and other watercraft below that would be impacted.

But this bridge didn't have any suspension cables, it was just the arch underneath holding it up. Does anybody know whether it was considered a particularly wide span for the type of support it had?

See my earlier post; I linked to a list of the ten longest bridges by type. At 140m this bridge wasn't even 1/3 the length of the record-holders for this type of structure at the time it was built, the Bayonne and Sydney Harbor bridges.
posted by dhartung at 11:21 AM on August 3, 2007


why don't they just close off the dam above?

Um, because that would cut off the flow of water to, y'know, the Mississippi River.

And I doubt that little dam is designed to do that.
posted by dersins at 11:32 AM on August 3, 2007


I don't know that the lock and dam system really has the ability to just close it off entirely. There are probably barges and other watercraft below that would be impacted.

Lock and dam systems are for navigation, not flood control. Thus, you can't just "shut the gates" and drain the river.
posted by dw at 11:34 AM on August 3, 2007


The Army Corps of Engineers actually does control the water level in the segments of the river around here, raising or lowering it as necessary. The next control point is at Ford Parkway, near Minnehaha Falls and the Airport. The "pool" containing the disaster area goes from the locks and falls by downtown, barely upstream, down to Ford Pkwy.

If I recall my geeky sci-tech tourguide spiel correctly, the river is controlled this way almost all the way down to St. Louis, with either good or bad effects, depending on whether you're a barge captain, a farmer, or a migratory bird or a fish.

Some of the media reports have mentioned that they've lowered the water level in the area down to seven (?) feet, but that for some reason that created extra suction and eddies in the remaining flow that was just as hazardous, so they had to raise it back a bit again.

I've seen photos of the last time major work was done on Lock & Dam #1 just upstream, right next to downtown. I think it was in the 1960s. Most of the riverbed for about 1/2 mile around that point was dry so they could do construction work--the flow was diverted into a side channel. This isn't something that you can just do overnight, of course, and the water still has to go somewhere.
posted by gimonca at 12:22 PM on August 3, 2007


See my earlier post; I linked to a list of the ten longest bridges by type. At 140m this bridge wasn't even 1/3 the length of the record-holders for this type of structure at the time it was built, the Bayonne and Sydney Harbor bridges.

Except that you got the type of bridge wrong. The ones you linked to were cable-stayed steel arch bridges, significantly different than the more generic truss structure that was the 35W bridge.

Still, your point is correct in that the bridge wasn't significantly wide or long for the type.
posted by Ickster at 12:38 PM on August 3, 2007


stories of the missing.

the cities have always seemed so removed from disaster and tragedy...I'm still having trouble believing this has happened.


.
posted by ialwayscryatendings at 12:53 PM on August 3, 2007


The Army Corps of Engineers actually does control the water level in the segments of the river around here, raising or lowering it as necessary. The next control point is at Ford Parkway, near Minnehaha Falls and the Airport. The "pool" containing the disaster area goes from the locks and falls by downtown, barely upstream, down to Ford Pkwy.
That's what i had heard on tv--they can certainly lower it a bunch for a day--- just to get bodies and cars out.

Every single official on tv now is passing the buck---NTSB to Secy of Transportation, Transportation to the state, the state to the city and back to the feds and Congress, etc...
posted by amberglow at 1:49 PM on August 3, 2007


and your "no new taxes" Governor is a total ass. How much was your new stadium there?
posted by amberglow at 1:50 PM on August 3, 2007


He vetoed a transportation bill 3 times? and killed a gas tax that was supposed to fix roads?
posted by amberglow at 1:58 PM on August 3, 2007


We need a new WPA, going around the country fixing all the infrastructure.
posted by amberglow at 2:41 PM on August 3, 2007


Well the stadium was/is being funded through the County (and the sport franchise) not the state. I think the bridge issue is important and I really wish Pawlenty had passed the transportation bill, but in this instance I doubt it would have don't anything for this bridge as it had been inspected, and cleared, both by the feds and the state, and as much as we like to hate on the government I tend to think what is wrong is some general flaw in the inspection system, not an intentional thing but an unknown element, something that should be tested that isn't, or inadequate methods for testing. Perhaps it is the increased stress load over the years, the thing is we don't know, and I think this is why there is buck passing going on, because we don't know yet what should have been done, and who would have been responsible. It is possible when it comes down to it that no one in particular is responsible, there was no decision made by any particular person along the lines of"that bridge is ready to collapse but lets not do anything about it". My gut feeling is if we closed off all bridges that had a similar rating as this one did we'd be in a serious mess.
People who are not directly involved are grasping at straws, and should chill out and find out more about it rather than consistently making ill informed jumps to conclusions and acting like they actually have a handle on the situation.
This is a horrible event but it will be fixed. The question I have in the back of my mind is if this will mean anything systemic will change, because it has to, we have to figure out what cause these things and made the needed reinvestment in infrastructure.
posted by edgeways at 2:45 PM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]





This is a horrible event but it will be fixed. The question I have in the back of my mind is if this will mean anything systemic will change, because it has to, we have to figure out what cause these things and made the needed reinvestment in infrastructure.


We know what causes these things---inadequate maintenance and inspection. We know that many thousands of bridges are in the same or worse shape. We know that infrastructure all over the country is overburdened and crumbling--whether it's roads, or pipes or electric wires, etc. We know all this, and elected officials still veto spending to fix them. It's not a mystery at all.

We know all about it. We know how to fix it all too, but don't do it.
posted by amberglow at 3:48 PM on August 3, 2007


Not one person should have died. They died in an wholly preventable and anticipatable incident because money wasn't spent as soon as the "structurally deficient" flag was raised. They died because "no new taxes" makes imbeciles vote for elected officials. They died because we as a nation will not spend the trillions it will take to fix all of it, while corrupt officials give their friends contracts to do stuff the government must do--when they bother at all.
posted by amberglow at 3:51 PM on August 3, 2007


That bridge and thousands like it were not "cleared", but were given warning labels, and officials were warned the bridges were not up to the requirements placed upon them. It was clear.
posted by amberglow at 3:54 PM on August 3, 2007


no, sorry, you are wrong again. If you listen to the less fearmongering newscasts and to those who make a living doing this sort of thing you would have heard explained that the term "structurally deficient" which was used to describe the bridge, does not mean exactly what it sounds like. It is a term which is used in conjunction with qualifiers to evaluate the bridge. In this case it was given a rating of 50 out of 100, meaning it should be considered for replacement in the future. The bridge was deemed safe for use. Most if not all of the State lawmakers and their families used that bridge regularly, it was considered safe for use, so why did it fall down now? Is there a flaw in the inspection process? Did the road repair work affect things? We'll find out.
'Structurally deficient' means some portions of the bridge need to be scheduled for repair or replacement. It doesn't mean that the bridge is unsafe," U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters.
There are about 75,000 bridges in the United States which meet the same criteria, should we close them all before we know what happened here? Because contrary to what you have been yelling about we don't know yet.

Look, we agree with each other that infrastructure needs to be a priority, that budgets need to reflect this. But in 27 years there have been 8 bridge collapse in the US, half of those are directly attributable to the bridges being struck by large boats/ships, so it is not as if everything is failing all at once.

If it turns out to be that age was the primary cause of the failure I'll be the first to admit you where right, I don't completely discount it, but let them get it sorted out. there are men and women working on this that know a hell of a lot more than you or I
posted by edgeways at 10:07 PM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Except that you got the type of bridge wrong.

Ickster: SCROLL DOWN. There are several types of bridges listed. (If only the author had included anchors I wouldn't be revisiting this minor supporting link again and again.)

That's what i had heard on tv--they can certainly lower it a bunch for a day--- just to get bodies and cars out.

And I'm sure they will as necessary. amberglow, you're just looking ignorant and strident. This is a body recovery operation and as such is not an immediate emergency.

We know what causes these things---inadequate maintenance and inspection.

Actually, no. They DID maintain and inspect this bridge (viz. the new decking). The problem is going to turn out to be related to whether the inspection technology itself, or the metallurgical analysis, was correct and sufficient. They knew it was weakening, but they certainly did not think it was ready to fall down. That's not what "structurally deficient" means by a long shot.

I don't think you're listening, though. You're scapegoating. There will be a political calculation here, but I'm concerned with the technological calculation.

Most if not all of the State lawmakers and their families used that bridge regularly

Indeed, edgeways. I'm sure that most of the MnDOT engineers, and the UMinn engineers for the 2001 report, are in similar situations. Minnesota is actually one of the better states in terms of infrastructure. I don't want to prematurely absolve anyone, but this really was much more of a freak accident rather than some kind of oversight.

Something was happening to that bridge, but we didn't know what it was, did we, Mr. Jones.
posted by dhartung at 6:49 AM on August 4, 2007


Yeah, the ratings aren't as cut-and-dried as you think. The P-I had a table of Seattle bridges and their ratings. Alaskan Way Viaduct rates 9-31.5, which sounds about right. The 520 bridge, though, scores 52.5-90 -- and every engineer in the city agrees that you don't want to be near that thing during a storm or earthquake because it will break up and sink. The Ship Canal Bridge, the bridge we have closest in construction to the 35W bridge, scored a 54 last inspection, and it's retrofitted so that it won't collapse during an earthquake.

On the West Coast, the big worry is what earthquakes could do to a structure. If a bridge won't ride out a 6-7 earthquake like we get every 30 years or so, it is by definition structurally deficient. But that doesn't mean the bridge will "just go" like the 35W bridge did.

And lastly, 40 years of hard-core maintenance wouldn't have fixed a design flaw. And that may be what we're looking at here. But we don't know, and we won't know until the forensics people can figure it all out.
posted by dw at 7:58 AM on August 4, 2007


This was not an act of God or earthquake or an impact --- this is inherently political since it's our government's responsibility to not allow these things to get to the point of collapse. Just because the engineers never screamed "Shut it down! now!" like in the movies doesn't mean they didn't warn repeatedly--and those warnings were never acted on.

The fact that this bridge shares a common problem doesn't mean it's not a glaring indictment of the neglect of our infrastructure--our steampipe thing here in NY, and all the blackouts too. These people all died because of that neglect. It's fact. Other people will die too, as more and more of our infrastructure crumbles. All bridges that are deficient or worse should be reinforced immediately if not outright closed and rebuilt. All pipes and electrical systems. All of our infrastructure. ... All unsafe things (and this bridge and all like it are unsafe).
posted by amberglow at 11:23 AM on August 4, 2007


Neglect of infrastructure is a direct cause, just like earthquakes. It's not as visible but it's just as deadly. Because we as a society don't recognize it or pay enough attention to it or fund the repair and upgrading of it at all does not at all mean it's some invisible cause. It is all the direct responsibility of all governments and is entirely political.
posted by amberglow at 11:25 AM on August 4, 2007




Strib: How did so many survive?
posted by COBRA! at 6:33 AM on August 5, 2007


They reopened the Stone Arch (pedestrian) bridge today, so this evening I walked down to take a look. I got there around 8pm to find hundreds of people lining the southeast railing of the bridge. It's the best view you can get of the wreckage from outside the police perimeter, but still you can't see much. From the conversations I heard around me, it was clear that most of the onlookers had never been on the Stone Arch Bridge before, had possibly only been downtown while driving over the river on the now-missing 35W bridge. They were looking at the slabs of concrete, barely visible at the surface of the water. For those of us who enjoy the view from the Stone Arch Bridge regularly, the interesting sight was not the fallen bridge itself, but the space where it used to be. While you can't see much of the remaining steel or concrete from that distance, it's amazing to remember where the bridge used to be, to contemplate how high it was, how far it fell.

The pedestrian bridge was surprisingly quiet despite the large crowd. After several sad minutes ruminating on the highway disaster, I started paying more attention to the crowd, and to the rest of the scenery around us. The Stone Arch Bridge is one of my favorite spots in Minneapolis (or anywhere), and I was actually deeply gratified to see so many people experiencing it for the first time. It offers a fantastic view of the Minneapolis skyline, and tonight many people turned their backs to the disaster for a few moments to watch a fuschia sun sink behind the federal reserve building. Families laughed at ducks that were splashing in a shallow gravel bar on the river, and I pointed out to a few strangers that you can see huge river fish under the water if you look for the trails of silt they swish up from the bottom as they swim. I heard strangers explaining to each other, "That's the new Guthrie theater building," "That's the Mill City Museum," "That lock and dam is how barges get up and down the waterfall sections of the river." I even found one other person who was as fascinated as I am by the giant (for MN, anyway) spiders that build webs in the corners where the railings meet the posts.

I am terribly grateful that so many people who were on the bridge escaped serious injury. I'm thankful to our emergency workers for their quick responses, and proud of our civilians for jumping in to help. Still, I'm not one to ignore yet another silver lining to this episode. The citizens of the greater Twin Cities area came to Minneapolis tonight, and they experienced firsthand the beauty and history that I absolutely love about this place. I'm so happy to share.
posted by vytae at 8:33 PM on August 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Video of the collapse.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:21 PM on August 5, 2007


Any updated numbers? I'm heading the death toll is under two dozen.

Given the size of what happened, that's pretty damn remarkable.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:58 AM on August 6, 2007


Any updated numbers?

the latest from wcco.com:

Authorities say 19 people remain hospitalized today recovering from injuries suffered when the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River.

Five of the injured remain in critical condition.

Authorities have identified the bodies of five people who died as a result of the collapse. Eight people are still listed as missing.

posted by vytae at 11:37 AM on August 6, 2007


That's what I saw; thirteen dead/missing is surprisingly few.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:09 PM on August 6, 2007


Sad, sick news: a father used the accident as an opportunity to severely injure his kid, blaming it on the accident.

This also ties into another thread we've recently had, in which shock and horror were expressed about a sicko family that abused a foster-care kid to death. Truth is, it seems to be all around us if we just look.

Sad species we are.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:05 PM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


DC is putting out spin now, about inherent design flaws and stuff in that type of bridge. Bull--if it were true they'd be collapsing all the time, or at least not take 40 years to do so.
posted by amberglow at 8:20 PM on August 8, 2007




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