Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

Continued: Should this bridge be open?

St. Paul city officials say the bridge was originally slated to be replaced in 2004. A MnDOT plan calls for replacement between 2015 and 2023, the same period during which the I-35W bridge was to be replaced.

Dorgan said that, unlike the I-35W bridge, Cayuga is not a fracture-critical bridge. It has redundant beams, meaning that the failure of one part would not necessarily lead to complete collapse. The main concern with Cayuga, he said, is the bridge's deck.

"The worst that can happen is you punch a hole in the deck and you have to shut a lane down," Dorgan said.

Why has the Cayuga not yet been replaced?

In a word, money. Five years ago Elwyn Tinklenberg, then MnDOT's commissioner, announced that 163 projects during the next decade would be deferred because of a lack of funds. One of those projects was the Cayuga bridge.

Across the country, the public is scrutinizing bridges' sufficiency ratings -- a federal highway administration measure for funding bridge projects. Not just a measure of safety, the ratings take into consideration factors such as the amount of traffic a bridge carries and the length that a detour would require.

"It's a composite of all kinds of different issues," Dorgan said, adding that a bridge with a lower sufficiency rating could actually be in better structural condition than one with a higher rating.

There's no point on the sufficiency scale that warns of imminent collapse, Dorgan said. If engineers determine that a bridge is unsafe, MnDOT would close it, he said.

Bridge inspectors look for deterioration by measuring metal thicknesses after corrosion, cracks and chips in concrete and cracks caused by metal fatigue. Inspectors who find cracks in key locations would call an inspection engineer and possibly shut the bridge down, Dorgan said.

As a bridge deteriorates, highway officials will restrict heavy loads from crossing it, he said. That may mean keeping extremely heavy trucks off first, and possibly all traffic later. In the meantime, transportation officials often plan for the bridge's repair or replacement.

Fracture-critical bridges are inspected more often and are watched more closely, Dorgan said.

Facing the heat

Closing a bridge can be an unpopular call.

Samuel Schwartz faced scorn from merchants, commuters and the mayor when, as chief engineer overseeing bridges in New York City in 1988, he closed the Williamsburg Bridge between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

"You have to have a lot of backbone," he said. "You're gonna catch both political heat and public heat."

It got so bad, he said, that he spent part of a day watching the scene in "To Kill a Mockingbird," where Gregory Peck wipes spit off his face instead of fighting back.

In Minnesota, when Richard Braun was transportation commissioner in 1984, he shut down the nearly century-old St. Paul High Bridge because nobody knew "when it might collapse into the Mississippi River," according to a newspaper report. The bridge was later replaced.

"To this day I have no idea how I had the guts to do this all by myself," Braun said.

  • related content

  • Photo gallery: Bad bridges

    Wednesday November 7, 2007

    Bad bridges

  • Graphic: Two bridges, bad and worse

    Saturday August 11, 2007

    Two bridges, bad and worse

  • Video: Navy divers speed recovery effort

    Friday August 10, 2007

    Navy salvage divers arrived Monday to assist the recovery effort in the I-35W bridge collapse. Video provided by the...

  • Video: A prayer for the missing

    Friday August 10, 2007

    The Minnesota Muslim community held a prayer service for the victims of the I-35W bridge collapse at the Brian...

  • Video: Bodies recovered from bridge collapse

    Thursday August 9, 2007

    The Hennepin County Sheriff and Hennepin County Medical Examiner confirmed that the body of Peter Hausmann, 47, was recovered...

  • Divers return, find remains of 9th victim

    Monday August 13, 2007

    The Hennepin County sheriff said increased current from recent rains in the Twin Cities and upstream has shifted the focus of the rescue effort from a search for victims to...

  • Standing shoulder to shoulder to say goodbye

    Saturday August 11, 2007

    Sadiya Sahal and her daughter, Hana, who both died in the I-35W bridge collapse, were buried in a traditional and casual ceremony.

  • State to get funds; death toll reaches 8

    Friday August 10, 2007

    As $50 million in federal money was pledged to help in recovery efforts, a sorrow-filled wait ended with identification of Sadiya Sahal and her daughter.

  • Aging spans: A national concern

    Friday August 10, 2007

    Pittsburgh's rusty framework is one sign of the eroded state of bridges across the nation

  • High anxiety: Bridge phobia crosses into world of panic

    Friday August 10, 2007

    Fear of bridges is real, but it's more about feeling trapped than fearing that it will collapse. Experts say treatments have a high success rate.

  • A family, a town await

    Friday August 10, 2007

    Lisa Jolstad's husband, Greg, is one of five people still missing in the wreckage in the Mississippi.

  • Oberstar's gas tax may hit some political potholes

    Saturday August 11, 2007

    Iron Range Rep. Jim Oberstar, chair of the House Transportation Committee, wants a 5-cent-a-gallon increase to shore up the nation's bridges. But his long-sought proposal will be a tough sell...

  • Five teams OK'd to submit bridge bids

    Friday August 10, 2007

    All five contracting teams that submitted statements of qualifications to bid on the Interstate 35W bridge project were accepted to submit a proposal and cost estimate, the Minnesota Department of...

  • Bridge took heavy toll, but not on her dreams

    Thursday August 9, 2007

    The 35W disaster has put life on hold for a Minneapolis teen, but her mom says she's a "glass half-full kind of kid."

  • After a disaster, charities shift into high gear

    Friday August 10, 2007

    Knowing how to get aid or make wise donations can be a hurdle after a traumatic event.

  • Possible flaw identified in I-35W bridge design

    Thursday August 9, 2007

    Federal officials concentrate on a possible design flaw and warn bridge engineers nationwide to watch weight of construction work.

  • JERRY HOLT ¥jgholt@startribune.com 8/9/2007---Officials carry the body of victim up the embankment on the north side of the river around 12:30pm on Thursday. The body was taken of a boat and transported by the medical examiner. Bridge Collapse

  • Peter Hausmann, of Rosemount, was on the 35W bridge when it collapsed. His body was recovered from the river on Thursday.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How do you feel about Kevin Love leaving the Wolves?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close