14 June 2008

Spin Early, Spin Often

Last August, the bridge fell down. Just before the dust settled, one Democrat after another paraded to the podium to blame the collapse on a governor who didn't raise taxes enough and spend enough money replacing everything. That's right; that bridge was perfectly safe from 1964 until the day Pawlenty/Molnau took the oath in 2003 when it became a deathtrap.

Watch out, governor haters; there's a big chink in your armor and it's in the Lefty House Organ:

Seven years before the Interstate 35W bridge fell (that'd be 2000), a consulting firm sent Minnesota officials a proposal to shore up the aging structure that included examining its gusset plates -- the connections that federal investigators now believe likely played a role in the collapse.

The preliminary plan from HNTB Corp. of Kansas City, which was buried among hundreds of documents released at a recent legislative hearing, has gone largely unnoticed in the debate over the disaster. The company did its study at no cost in an attempt to gain a state contract for the bridge work but, in the
end, wasn't hired by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).
Buried? By an arm of the Democrat-controlled Minnesota legislature? Do tell . . .
Although a top HNTB official said recently that it's impossible to say whether the company would have found the critical gusset plate problems now under investigation, the proposal is a rare documented instance in which experts explicitly planned to examine gusset plates.
Even the engineers have a hard time drawing absolute conclusions, but that won't stop the People's Professional Progressives for politicizing that sad day.

Although the official investigation of the bridge collapse by the National Transportation Safety Board isn't expected to be completed until later this year, the NTSB has tentatively concluded that undersized gusset plates ordered in the original design of the bridge likely played a role. Gray Plant Mooty records show that some MnDOT officials wanted to go ahead with hiring HNTB in late 2001. Notes from a December 2001 meeting at MnDOT, for example, show state bridge officials concluded that since replacing the bridge would not occur until at least 2016 "[we] decided to proceed with study HNTB/Dexter proposed." MnDOT officials told the law firm that the delay between HNTB's late 2001 report and the decision to formally hire a consultant in early 2003 came because the agency could not hire the company without seeking competitive bids and had lingering questions about whether HNTB's plan would fix the bridge's weaknesses.

2000, 2001, who was governor then? Oh yea, ol' Turnbuckehead and who was Jesse's head of MnDOT? It was the Tinkler, who's perpetually running for whatever higher office he can scrounge with full blessing of the DFL. Surely the Tink made bridge inspection #1 while he minded the store, right? Check this out:

I will help ensure the safety of our roads, bridges and interchanges through timely maintenance and improvements. Well-planned improvements to a balanced transportation system are necessary investments in the economic future of the state and region, and will help Minnesota capture the 80% federal matching funds currently available.

That's right, Tink will make sure everything is taken care of. Does he mean like when he was head of MnDOT, or some other time, perhaps?

Dan Dorgan, who succeeded Flemming as state bridge engineer, acknowledged that "it appears that we made a choice not to push it that quickly." He said that MnDOT had competing priorities at the time, including building Minnesota's first light-rail line. "They were very busy years for us," said Dorgan. "It was one of those things we intended to do, but it wasn't in our list of things."
Bridge safety put on the back burner to build the euphorian plastic choo-choos? In Minnesota? I'm shocked, shocked I tell you.

1 comment:

Sornie said...

If only our government had a balance in the care, development and construction of our state's infrastruture. Instead, it's seemingly all or nothing. I'm all for pinning the blame on someone but this chain of neglect and ignorance goes back many terms inside the governor's mansion. I just find the timing of the actually crumbling of our infrastructure ironic as so many other economic and societal woes are bubbling to the surface as well.