Thursday, August 2, 2007

Bridge Fall Down, No Partial Credit

The title is from something my ex-husband used to say, I think. It's the response students would get from some math professor he had in college.

As it happens, my college boyfriend (who preceded the ex in my life) was obsessed with bridges. One date we were on, we crossed many of the 97 bridges in and around New York City. It was a fun adventure, and I had no trouble going over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, with its 4066 foot suspension span between the towers (I've got a little trouble with the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge and its 4000 foot span, but that has to do with the possibility--nay, probability, just ask my ex-husband--of earthquakes), not that day or any other.

So now I can be freaked out by an 458 foot steel-arch construction and the knowledge that it was proclaimed "deficient" several years ago--along with a large number of other bridges around the country--yet the cost of building a new bridge made it somewhat less of a priority for Minnesota than it should have been. From KPIX's website:

The bridge had been inspected by the Minnesota Department of Transportation in 2005 and 2006 and no immediate structural problems were noted, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Wednesday.

"There were some minor things that needed attention," he said. "They notified us from an engineering standpoint the deck might need to be rehabilitated or replaced in 2020 or beyond."

A federal database, however, showed the 40-year-old bridge had been rated as "structurally deficient" in 2005 and possibly in need of replacement, the Star Tribune reported citing the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Bridge Inventory.

"We've seen it, and we are very familiar with it," Jeanne Aamodt, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said of the 2005 assessment. She noted that many other bridges around the country carry the same designation that the I-35W bridge received, and she declined to say what the agency was going to do to address the deficiencies found in 2005.

I can't help but wonder where the rest of these "deficient" bridges are located.

I've been over this bridge and I have many friends who live in the greater Minneapolis area (including the old college boyfriend and a lot of science fiction and fantasy writers.) My niece used to go to the University of Minnesota. I am very glad more people weren't on the bridge and that so many walked away from this possibly avoidable disaster.

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