The bill to fix problems at the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge continues to grow, as Hennepin County commissioners voted today to increase a contract with a firm consulting on the project to more than five times the original amount.
The county’s Public Works, Energy and Environment Committee approved raising the agreement with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates to $550,000, for the Illinois-based company to design repairs and manage construction.
Officials first approved the contract with Wiss, Janney, Elstner – the same Illinois firm that investigated the cause of the fatal I-35W bridge collapse - in February for up to $100,000 to investigate why the longest set of cables on the pedestrian and bicycle bridge broke loose that month and cracks were discovered in plates anchoring other cables to the mast.
Since then, the county has approved separate increases of $200,000, $150,000, and, this afternoon, $100,000 for Wiss, Janney, Elstner to expand its role in implementing permanent repairs at the Sabo Bridge. The latest change covers the cost of the company drafting detailed engineering drawings of reinforcements for cable connection plates.
The city of Minneapolis, which owns the bridge, is splitting the cost of the work with Hennepin County. The county oversaw construction of the $5.1 million span, which opened in November 2007.
Also today, the public works panel approved a $25,000 reimbursement from the county to the city for work that Minneapolis performed to allow for the interim reopening of the bridge in June.
Officials are in discussions with companies involved in the bridge’s construction about who should pay for the repairs. Wiss, Janney Elstner’s investigation found in June that the design of the span allowed winds as light as 5 to 10 miles an hour to compromise the cables. The firm that designed the bridge, URS Corp., also paid a $52 million settlement for its work on the 35W bridge that collapsed in 2007.
That report led the Met Council to deny URS the award of a $94 million contract on the Southwest light rail project and instead recommend multiple engineering contracts for companies to bid on.
The city said in May that it had already spent an additional $420,000 to respond to the bridge failure, on top of the charges from Wiss, Janney, Elstner.

Those expenses do not include the construction costs to permanently repair the brige, which have yet to be determined.