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Continued: Second opinion on causes will be a secret one

In an e-mail in late August from a Wiss Janney official, the company told MnDOT that the removal of the collapsed bridge from the Mississippi River would likely take 12 weeks from Aug. 20 and that the consultant's final report would then be ready six months afterward.

"I think that's a reasonable estimate," Koob said of the schedule, which would mean that a Wiss Janney report would be ready by approximately May or June of next year.

As MnDOT and Wiss Janney drafted the contract language during August, records show, there were some key changes. Although the final contract included language ordering Wiss Janney to investigate terrorism and the 40-year-old bridge's design and construction as possible causes for the collapse, an earlier draft of the contract did not list either as an item to probe.

Asked whether he thought Wiss Janney and the NTSB might arrive at different conclusions for the collapse, Koob said: "I'll let you think about that. We both basically have the same facts."

As in the past, the NTSB had little comment on Wiss Janney's role in the investigation. When asked about the consultant providing an early report to MnDOT, NTSB spokesman Terry Williams said: "That's not a concern of ours at all. It has absolutely nothing to do with ours."

Williams, who had earlier called Wiss Janney's hiring by MnDOT unusual, added: "I can't speculate at all to what their investigation will entail. We're working with MnDOT, we're not working with the consultant."

Staff writer Dan Browning contributed to this report. • 612-673-4388 • 651-222-1210

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