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  • Kerry O'Hare

A Bridge in America Should Not Just Fall Down

Updated: Oct 2, 2018



It's hard to believe that eleven years have passed since the horrific collapse of the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis killing 13 and injuring 145 people, on August 1, 2007. In addition to the terrible loss of life and injuries a major commuting route for over 140,000 daily vehicles was lost for nearly fourteen months.


While the bridge had been listed as structurally deficient, the National Transportation Safety Board ultimately determined that the cause of the collapse was a design flaw. A classification of structurally deficient does not necessarily mean that a bridge is dangerous, rather, it is a designation that it is aging and in need of repair. In fact, repairs to the bridge were underway when it collapsed. But that is of little solace to the millions of Americans that cross one of the over 55,000 structurally deficient bridges every day. Structurally deficient bridges can be found in every state - even in Washington DC. On a positive note, while over 55,000 structurally deficient bridges are clearly too many, it's down from the nearly 74,000 such bridges in 2007.


When it came to building a replacement bridge the story got more encouraging. The new bridge was built on an expedited schedule using the (at the time) innovative design-build project delivery method. An unqualified success story, the new bridge opened to traffic on September 18, 2008. The project was completed three months ahead of schedule and was awarded the "Best Overall Design-Build Project Award" for 2009" from the Design-Build Institute of America.


Project delivery methods such as design-build became more prevalent and policymakers looked for other ways to hasten the time it takes to build important transportation projects.


Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar was right when she said in the aftermath of the Minnesota bridge collapse that "a bridge in America should just not fall down." It's time to get serious and put partisan differences aside and work together on a visionary long-term infrastructure plan.



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