August 1, 2007; Minnesotan’s were dealt the the summer disaster of the decade: The I-35 bridge over the Mississippi collapsed on both lanes of traffic at 6:00PM evening rush-hour. And, I think every Minnesotan knows who should be blamed for it: The Minnesota GOP.
From January all through June, the DFL legislature tried to put together a Transportation Bill that would have earmarked an incredible amount of infrastructure support to our highways and bridges. Also included in that Trans Bill was to put together a desperately needed mass-transit and light rail system. But, our (Republican) Governor vetoed the job.
According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s annual survey of highway smoothness, the state missed its own target for the number of roads it wants in “good” condition for the fourth year in a row. In addition, “the percentage of lower-volume roads in ‘poor’ condition increased to 5.2 percent — the highest level on record. By 2010, more than 3 percent of freeways, interstates and other high-volume roads are projected to be in the poor category, up from 2.3 percent last year.” [Star Tribune, 6/11/07]
While all of this was going on, Governor Tim Pawlenty was in Iowa stumping for US Senator John McCain’s miserable race for US President.
Governor Pawlenty was quick with his veto pen too. Trying to act like a pint-sized George W Bush:
Literally wielding a big red VETO stamp to appease the no-tax crowd that remains hell-bent on a something-for-nothing relationship with government, Gov. Tim Pawlenty deep-sixed the bipartisan transportation bill. ‘How dumb can they be?’ he sneered of the lawmakers who dared approve a tax hike to fix the state’s roads.
Minnesotan’s already face the worst traffic in the country. We rank up there as Number 1 in some areas and are in the top five in many others.
Minnesota scored best, 1st place, on rural interstate condition with no poor miles reported. It ranked 4th on fatality rate and 5th on deficient bridges. The lowest rankings were 49th for urban interstate congestion and 35th for maintenance disbursements per mile of responsibility.
“Minnesota seems to be holding its own despite rising congestion and unit costs,” the study said.
(The bold is mine.)
In case you don’t know the Twin Cities Metro area: Think of our freeway system as a bullseye with two vertical lines: I-35W (Minneapolis) and I-35E (St. Paul). The beltway (I-694) is under complete renovation at I-35E north of St Paul. Now that I-35W is a complete disaster… Who do you think will suffer the most? The Governor? The Lt Governor? How much gas will be wasted as commuters who live north of the Twin Cities over-clog western and eastern artery freeways to get around this nightmare?
In 2001, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies looked at this Minnesota Bridge #9340 and noted that the bridge did show signs of stress in the area of fatigue in the truss areas.
The bridge’s deck truss has not experienced fatigue cracking, but it has many poor fatigue details on the main truss and floor truss system. The research helped determine that the fatigue cracking of the deck truss is not likely, which means that the bridge should not have any problems with fatigue cracking in the foreseeable future. As a result, Mn/DOT does not need to prematurely replace this bridge because of fatigue cracking, avoiding the high costs associated with such a large project.
One might take note that Minnesota’s Lt Governor, Carol Molnau (R) also serves as Commissioner of the Dept of Transportation. And, if you’re that interested in Minnesota politics, you’ll remember that in June 2006, her department tried to “fish” for a contractor to fix a major congestion area known in the Twin Cities as the “Crosstown Highway” where Highway 62 interchanges with the very same I-35W. This site is approximately four miles south where today’s bridge collapsed.
Her department went looking for a contractor who was willing to cough up $250 million of their own money to fix the the congested area while she was promising to pay them back “sometime soon”.
The $250 million Twin Cities project was set to start in August but contractors walked away from the unorthodox financing plan, which required them to put up their own money to keep construction going between state payments.
The plan failed. Molnau couldn’t find any suckers who were willing to play “First National Bank of Crosstown Highway” and she couldn’t find any under writers to support her in Shanghai, Bejing, New York or Hong Kong. So the Crosstown Highway project remains a complete nightmare.
Let me remind you again: The Minnesota DFL did have a plan! They produced a Transportation bill! The Governor’s tried to act like a little George W and he vetoed it. In “GOP World”: anything a Democrat says is worth ignoring and trivializing. And now we can watch 6 “trivialized” dead Minnesotans in the Mississippi River on the I-35 Bridge #9340.
I’m not going to let up on Lt Gov Carol Molnau either. She and her failed Dept of Transportation staffers had to deal with another major bottleneck of traffic: Interstate 494 and US 169, southwest of the Minneapolis. It was completely engineered to remove traffic lights and improve the cloverleaf areas. Everybody in Eden Prairie, Golden Valley, St Louis Park and Bloomington suffered through the summer heat and clogged traffic jams all summer long. The project failed (of course) with the same bottleneck problems. Those folks did get brand-new traffic lights and a new proposal to start the entire project
is was slated to begin next year.
So would the DLF proposal for the Transportation bill prevented this horrific bridge collapse?! Of course not! We’re not being naive here. But if there’s any time to point a finger at anybody who’s vetoing a Transportation Bill, it needs to be pointed at our Republican Governor.
New Orleans, the Republican President has abandoned any attempt to rebuild that city. Instead, they blamed Louisiana’s governor Kathleen Blanco while Louisianan’s drowned. In Kansas, the state flooded earlier this spring and the Republican President blamed their Democratic President Kathleen Sebelius and have ignored the good folks of Kansas… In New York City, an explosion in Manhattan underground, only to find that it was an infrastructure problem (of course!) and the problem is 80-Odd years old.
These Republicans will sit back and do nothing but vote in permenant tax cuts for their rich buddies and while our infrastructure collapses around us. They obviously don’t care about our lives and our cities and our country – as long as we continue to fork over our wallets to pay for their inflated gas hikes and hand over our children to fight their failed wars.
So do you think it’s mind-boggling to see Minnesota’s Bridge #9340 collapsed horrific footage? Are you still that naive to believe that it won’t happen in your city?!
Where do you live? In Albuquerque?
Do you live in Lexington, KY? Where do you live?
How much of this Republican bull-shit are you willing to buy into before a sewer pipe explodes in your own home town?
How much of this Republican crap are you willing to believe before you’re digging out a dead-body stuck in a car in the local river?
We’ve watched this horror on our television sets all night. All of our network affiliates jammed this horror down our throats all night. Minneapolis telephone numbers are met with annoying buzzing sounds, and we have a lot of people in the local trauma center looking for missing loved ones. Everybody’s emailing each other checking up on each other, I’ve had phone calls from dear friends in Atlanta, Hawaii, Washington, Ohio and Michigan… Friends checking up on us and making sure we weren’t on that bridge. The news is telling us that the US Secretary of Transportation is expected to fly into MSP for a look-see at this “Minnesota Bridge #9340”, as if we care anyway. She wasting her time and she’ll be in our way looking for some stupid photo-op while we’ll be digging out more Toyotas and Hyundai’s from the bottom of the Mississippi. Excuse me while I skip out and pay attention… Six dead people have been fished out of the river so far at the time of writing this. There’s a pregnant American woman who’s been found… Oh Lord, another lost life. I’ve gotta go…
President Bush keeps talking about “keeping Americans” safe. But who will keep all of us safe from the GOP?
Other (GOP) notes of interest on this piece:
Slideshow WCCO, CBS Affiliate Minneapolis has a slideshow of I-35W bridge before GOP Governor Tim Pawlenty let the bridge collapse.
Slideshow WCCO, CBS Affiliate Minneapolis has a slideshow of the bridge after it collapsed
Slideshow ABC Affiliate, KSTP
Video : Minneapolis Star-Tribune