The lawyer who represented many of the victims of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse said he would “think twice” about giving the bridge’s state consultant -- URS Corp. -- more state business.
Chris Messerly, an attorney for many of the victims of the 2007 tragedy, made his comments in response to a report that the Metropolitan Council is considering giving URS a major contract for the proposed Southwest Corridor light rail line in the Twin Cities.
“You kind of have to think twice as to why the state would hire them yet again given their track record in our state,” he said. “We uncovered a lot of issues that were extremely troubling to us” regarding the 35W bridge collapse.
“This wasn’t in our view just a negligent actor. It was someone who deliberately disregarded the public safety,” said Messerly.
“Maybe they’ve remedied all those problems – I don’t know,” he added. “But, certainly, if someone’s going to hire them they better look to see if URS has fixed their problems that led to the I-35W bridge collapsing.”
The San Francisco-based URS was a state consultant on the 35W bridge before it collapsed, and paid $52.4 million in 2010 to settle a lawsuit brought for killed and injured motorists who were on the bridge when it fell.
A URS spokesman said the company was only a consultant to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and that the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the collapse was due to a decades-old design flaw compounded by extra weight on the bridge.
URS spokesman Ronald Low said the company’s team for the light rail contract was “uniquely qualified.” He added: “We strongly disagree with the issues that were raised.”
The Met Council has acknowledged that URS is on a short list of contractors for a preliminary and final engineering contract that would span six years at a cost of between $90 million and $100 million.
While he was running for governor in 2010, Gov. Mark Dayton said he was “just outraged” by documents showing URS' conduct prior to the bridge collapse. Dayton at the time said that, if elected, he would issue an executive order barring URS from receiving state contracts at least until lawsuits regarding the bridge collapse were settled.
Dayton however said last week he was still troubled by URS’ possible hiring. “The governor has very strong concerns about the state doing business with URS, and has expressed those concerns to [Met Council chair] Susan Haigh as well,” said Dayton spokesperson Katharine Tinucci.