The bridge report

The firm hired by the Legislature to investigate MnDOT decisions leading to the collapse of the I-35W bridge has released its report.

Here’s the full version, although you can build a new bridge in the time it takes to download it.

“Financial considerations, we believe, did play a part in the decision-making” on bridge maintenance, Robert Stein, one of the attorneys, told lawmakers during a briefing. “Sometimes it’s easier just to take the least expensive alternative or just commission another study.”

Of course, things make more sense with the benefit of hindsight, but financial considerations are a fact of life and balancing those considerations with the possibilities and probabilities resulting from each decision is the hard part.

According to the Associated Press account:

Tom Johnson, another attorney who worked on the report, told legislators the maintenance work wasn’t sufficient. The bridge was rated in “serious to poor” condition for 17 consecutive years by the National Bridge Inventory Standards.

Seventeen years is a little different than what MnDOT claims. In its bridge fact sheet, MnDOT reported, “Deficiencies were acknowledged in inspection reports dating back to 1997. Mn/DOT had taken several steps to address these deficiencies. Some cracking in the approach spans was repaired or was being monitored.”

So, how long should a state allow a bridge rated in “serious to poor condition” to stand?

It’s a good question, given that in Minnesota, 1,097 bridges that are considered structurally deficient, and 3 percent of them are considered in “poor” condition, according to the Office of Legislative Auditor.

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