Minnesota’s (Collapsed) Bridge #9340: Use Alternate Routes

SorrowThe feeling here in the Twin Cities is …subdued.

It’s the feeling we now share with our friends in New Orleans, and in New York and in Washington DC. Quiet…shy questions we ask each other while standing in line at the grocery store; “Has your family been affected by the Bridge Disaster?”

“Oh no! Thank gawd! Isn’t this just aweful?!! My family is all okay thank God…”

We return to our groceries, putting them on the conveyor belt ready to get scanned; happy for the neighbor’s relief. Worried that the next question might not be the same response. But, the question has to be asked and all of us have to be ready for a hug, or to offer a shoulder or perhaps an offering or token of love.

It’s subdued. And in secret we cry for those that have lost someone.

My mother called from northern Minnesota where my uncles and aunts and Grandmother live. A cousin of mine who lives here in Minneapolis relayed that he was on a metro city bus. He’s a survivor by means of less 90 seconds. The city bus driver slammed on the breaks and screamed in horror. My cousin, recovering looked up ahead and he said; “The freeway just disappeared. The long line of cars..instantly vanished. My stomach dropped with them in horror. Then it was a horrible crash and everybody was screaming…and then the could of dust drowned everything in sight. The bus was about two car-lengths from the break in the pavement.”

Subdued. Numb.

The parade of politicians have become an embarrassment to the city. We’re not accustomed to people giving us sympathy. Nobody sympathyzes with a Minnesotan when their local weatherman points out that it’s -30 F. Well, maybe they do and we don’t know it. Our local heros are getting the backseat while the politicians make promises of inspection, and rebuilding and promises for a safer future. The media finds and focuses on some of the heros and make them answer embarrassing questions.Shanna Hanson

Shanna Hanson, Capt., Minneapolis Fire, Ladder 10. She’s the blonde haired firefighter being shown in the water swimming around in the wreckage that you’ve all seen. Shanna gave a heartwarming interview where she cracked up with emotion during the television airing. The video is two minutes long and you’ll be startled, moved and very proud of her as an American.

Jeremy Hernandez a camp counselor, on the bus taking a short nap as the bus crossed the I-35W bridge, at less than 10 miles per hour. After the crash, the bus landed at an awkward angle. Quickly, he found a safe place for the children to evacuate to and one by one he carried each child out and helping them to that evacuation point. A few children had minor injuries, but none of them parished and all of it goes credit to Jeremy. The video is 1:50.

Jeremy HernandezJeremy had to drop out of Dunwoody College in Minneapolis because he couldn’t afford the tuition. Jeremy wanted to be an automobile mechanic, so he decided to become a camp counsellor for the summer and decide what to do next. After the story broke, Dunwoody was bombed with phone calls demanding that Dunwoody reinstate Jeremy as a student and wave his tution fees and book fees. I guess Jeremy discovered what was coming up next in his life.

Jim OberstarOne hero deserving mention goes to a politician: Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN 8 Cong Dist). While this (Republican) disaster remains fresh on the minds of every member of Congress in both the House and the Senate, Congressman Oberstar, Minnesota’s most Sr Congressmember, shoved a $250 million funding bill to be released to Minnesota for the repairs to begin immediately. Senators Norm Coleman (R-MN and Jr. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) both followed suit with a bill that sailed through the US Senate. Tomorrow, George W Bush makes his appearance joining his wife Pickles and there’s little doubt that he’ll veto the spending.

US Senator Coleman (R) Congressman Obertar (D)This is a remarkable move by Congressman Oberstar and he should be commended. First, the tragedy push Bush’s Iraqi Oil war below the fold, and Bush’s demand that Congress remain in session until he gets his funding bills passed turns to nothing more than a temper-tantrum. Secondly, it forced Bush for the first time to act like a President rather than an insolent spoiled-rotten and apathetic child as he did in the Katrina disaster and the NYC Towers disaster.

Governor Tim Pawlenty, for the first time in his entire time as governor appeared to have caved into the Minnesota DFL demands that quick and swift action be taken to look at our states infrustructure. If you’re not a Minnesotan, you may not quit understand how this works…but perhaps you will!

Perhaps you have the same thing in your area.

The Twin Cities Public Television (PBS/TPT) airs a program every Friday evening at 7:00PM called Almanac. Almanac is a public affairs show that’s run for years now. It’s a quiet “Minnesota moment around a quiet campfire”.

The show focuses on the local music and theater scene, the latest craze going on at the highly celebrated Minnesota State Fair. The show might focus 10 minutes in each broadcast to talk about the political scene. Each political conversation is a brilliant work of bi-partisan conversation where shy and reserved Minnesota politicians mutter and argue shyly about their opposing political views.

I highly recommend that you take the time and watch the first 40 minutes because this is what you’ll see:

Every show has an opening monologue. Sometimes it’s irreverent, sometimes it’s poetry. It might be someone singing a silly song. Tonight’s episode was a heart-warming metaphore by Jim Ragsdale about Bridges. The monologue will demand a tear to squirt out of the corner of your eye.

Erik Eskola and his wife Cathy Wurzer sat with bothTPawlenty Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) and with Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak (DFL). The two of them look tired and Tim Pawlenty looked old. Pawlenty has been brutally beaten up by this bridge disaster and every sagging line and droopy eye-bag shows.

Eskola didn’t hold back to drill at the Governor. It’s a moment when you thank the Gods you’re not the Governor and you weren’t responsible for ignoring the opposing political party. Eskola rounding around and began directly throwing the DFL’s previous transportation bill front and center. Pawlenty threw back as a dead-fish by resigning the fact that all options were on the table to keep this from ever happening again. Eskola, not satisfied with an ambiguous comment like that, brought up the contentious Ten Cent gas tax that the DFL wanted to put on their Transportation Bill that would be spread out over two years. Caved, Tim Pawlenty reiterated that ALL things were on the table.

RTRybakRT Rybak was on the stick by noting that he’s been coordinating reconstruction teams that includes business leaders in the Minneapolis to begin immediate work on scheduled truck routes that removes heavy traffic coming into the city during the workday hours. He’s also coordinating Washington DC political cash with the Metropolitan Counsel that would rebuild the I-35W bridge to include a light-rail line to be included a transit way to include the 100,000 students who are at the University of Minnesota (less than a half mile from the disaster site) as well as permenant Park-n-Rides throughout the area that would compliment all of this in a reduction of smog and traffic in the area.

For the first time, I saw a Republican (Tim Pawlenty) listening and talking without his political hat. He was accessible, and he had obviously checked his political hat at the door. Will wonders ever cease?

Eric Eskola came back at the Governor and mentioned that there’s been talk on bringing back the states Legislature for a special session. The Governor remained subdued and agreed that if the Legislature wanted to bring back the ignored Transportation Bills in a special session that he would welcome it.

The Governor was yielding earlier in the day as Minnesota Publica Radio reported on a very densive Lt Governor Carol Molnau. For the first time, Pawlenty seemed willing to act like a bipartisan governor and work with the Itchy and Scratchy DFL Party of Minnesota.

It begs noting that Governor Tim Pawlenty was sprucing up his story to make it a “Magical Disaster” by which nobody could explain. The NTSB seems puzzled and they’ve gone public by noting that every inch of the wreckage would be inspected, as well as all of the video – especially the famous “security camera footage”. Yesterday however, Governor Pawlenty was pushing a “magical moment” in Minnesota history by saying:

“It’s a somewhat unique structure in the way that it was designed,” Pawlenty said. “It was inspected both in 2005 and 2006. There were no structural deficiencies identified in the bridge according to MnDOT. There were some cosmetic or minor repair items that needed some attention but no structural defects or deficits identified in the bridge.”

(The emphasis is mine.) This is a wee-bit of a fabrication. To say there wasn’t any structural deficiencies identified is nothing but political spin. Because he forgets that those MinnDOT reports from 2005/2006 are available on line. And here is what those reports said:

This recommendation listing refers to specific areas where fatigue cracks and other eficiencies were located during the 2006 inspection. Bridge inspection lists these eficiencies in the highest priority first.
Long Term Repair Recommendations

• The long term plans for this river crossing need to be defined with replacement, redecking, etc. Due to the “Fracture Critical” configuration of the main river spans and the problematic “crossbeam” details, and fatigue cracking in the approachspans, eventual replacement of the entire structure would be preferable.

• If bridge replacement is significantly delayed, the bridge should be re-decked. The design of the main river spans do not allow for deck widening. Any re-decking contract should also include a complete re-painting of the superstructure, limination of the hinge joint in span #2, and reconfiguration of the deck drainage system.

• Depending on the projected date of bridge replacement, the bridge deck will eventually require a partial overlay repair contract. The expansion joints should also e replaced.

My offer of one Fresh Fruit Basket to that Research Goddess “mcg” over at Democratic Underground Discussion board for that amazing piece of research. My personal message to her is: “Day-Um!! Gurl…That was awesome!!!”

A short break resumed with a continuation of MinneapolisSenator Steve Murphy and St Paul’s recovery by bringing out State Senator Steve Murphy (DFL 28th District (Red Wing)), Chairman of the Transportation committe who pointed out that he was more than ready to return to a special legislative session. His Republican counter-part, Republican Mary Liz Holberg (R-36A) was quit to sound like a Republican is Rep Mary Liz Holbergexpected by being cautious one being over reactionary. She conceeded that there probably would be some tax increases, or perhaps some bonding bills. But she worried about taxes and the family budget. The Almanac Hosts, Eric and Cathy were about to introduce a new topic and immediately Murphy stood his ground and whipped out a piece of paper from his suit-coat pocket and was ready to introduce a plan for recovery. He pointed out that the last gas tax increase was in 1988, and that worry about the “family budget” or about the families who’ve lost someone on a collapsed bridge.

The Almanac hosts pointed out that Lt Governor CarolCathy Wurzer, Holberg, Eric Eskola, Murphy Molnau has not yet been confirmed by the Senate as Commissioner of Transportation. State Senator Murphy was asked if the collapsed bridge would ruin her chances of being confirmed. He said he didn’t know and wanted it to be pushed off the topic until a much later time. The Senator was polite and said the topic wasn’t appropriate until this matter is cleaned up.


George W Bush showed up to inspect the site. Nobody much cared I don’t think. More interest was in seeing Marine One flying around the site than there was any care for the guy inside. After a short while watching it on the television – we turned it all off we just moved on with our lives.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Sunday edition (8/5/2007) carries an excellent piece by Ann McFeatters that spanks the Republica part for their insolence and their arrogance. Her opening paragragh will, and should, send shivers down everybody’s spine:

And so our latest true-life, made-for-cable-TV disaster unfolds. Remember the talk about the nation’s crumbling infrastructure after levees failed during Hurricane Katrina? Remember those SUV-eating sinkholes in Brooklyn? Remember the report that $120 billion a year is wasted on road repairs because our highways are decaying? Remember when the electric grid caused a power blackout that affected millions? Remember the Hawaii dam that collapsed, killing seven people? How about the analysis that 13,000 highway fatalities each year occur because of congestion or poor maintenance and design? The catastrophe in downtown Minneapolis caused by an arterial bridge collapsing in rush-hour traffic is the latest in unheeded warnings that, physically, the United States is in bad shape. We Americans who have rejoiced in — and boasted about — the grandeur of our cities, the comfort of reliable electricity, the wonder that has been our national highway system, the easy readiness of tap water and our can-do eagerness to build the best have been blind about growing fissures in that very infrastructure.

Lori Sturdevant of the Star Tribune has line grabber of her own box of crayons and has written an epitaph for the GOP. This war of Bush’s in Iraq and now this bridge collapse is not going to bode well for the GOP in Minnesota. Her title piece:

Can DFL pick up a seat? That’s the whisper

I have to disagree; It’s now becoming a shout.

The 10:00PM News on the local channels stated that mourning services in the Twin Cities have begun today. St Mark’s Episcopal CathedralTomorow’s Sunday morning servies will be a day of mourning. Not only those who were in cars and stuck in the traffic jam, but there were construction crew workers who’ve still not been found.

St Mark’s Episcopal, downtown Minneapolis will hold an interfaith service tomorrow morning. Governor Pawlenty and Mayor RT Rybak will be leading the services which are at 1o:00AM, and everybody is invited.

Subdued. Numb.

I received a fortune cookie that said: “Knocked down seven times, get up eight”. I thought about that cookie while driving out to my folks’ place to pick some fresh tomatoes and raspberries. Cloudy, rainy – my windshield wiper blade needs changed. That digital roadsign Methat hangs over the freeway said:



“Yeah,” I thought; “This country needs to begin using ‘Alternate Routes’. Nocked down seven times, get up eight.”