Lessons to be learned from bridge collapse
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The fatal disaster in Minneapolis unfortunately reminds us that tragedies can sometimes be born from the seemingly mundane actions in life, such as crossing a bridge.
The human toll won't be known for days, perhaps weeks. Still, moments like this change a community forever and underscore the volatility and value of life.
Many now are asking how such a tragedy could have happened — as they should be. In 2001, a state report highlighted problem's with Interstate 35W bridge's "load-carrying elements." And in 2005, the U.S. Department of Transportation found the bridge "structurally deficient."
Sadly, neither report stated the bridge was unsafe to use — which effectively left state leaders with no sense of urgency. In fact, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, during a press conference on Wednesday, said the bridge deficiencies were "minor" and that the state was told the bridge's deck may need to be repaired or replaced in 2020 or later.
Minneapolis was a brutal wake-up call. Approximately one-quarter of the nation's 500,000 bridges are considered structurally deficient, and 80,000 bridges are in need of some sort of reconstruction or rebuilding, according to the Associated Press.
In June, Advertiser writer Jan TenBruggencate reported that nearly half of our state's 1,110 bridges fail to meet federal standards — most of which were found substandard in 2001 as well. Nationally, funding has been a key problem, as Congress and states haggle over financial responsibilities.
This catastrophe has shown us that time is a luxury we can't afford. As investigators look for answers in Minneapolis, state leaders and the federal government must work together to ensure that the warning signs on our nation's bridges are no longer ignored.