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Kayaker found; no homeless perished

  • August 10, 2007 - 12:27 AM

KAYAKER FOUND; NO HOMELESS PERISHED

A kayaker who was on the Mississippi River at the time of the I-35W collapse has contacted authorities, Minneapolis police said Thursday. Investigators had asked for the media's help in finding him because they wanted to interview him.

Police Capt. Mike Martin also said that a homeless man who returned to the site helped investigators identify where other homeless men had camped under the bridge. Police now believe that none perished in the collapse on Aug. 1.

Martin said that between 200 and 300 witnesses have been interviewed. Any witnesses who have not yet scheduled interviews are asked to call 1-866-328-6347.

JIM FOTI

OFFICIALS QUESTION SPEED OF REBUILDING

Several public officials from the southern half of the metro area are questioning the ambitious timetable for rebuilding the bridge, which officials have said could be done by the end of 2008.

At a meeting of the I-35W Solutions Alliance on Thursday morning, Rep. Shelley Madore, DFL-Apple Valley, called the timetable unrealistic and said her constituents are concerned "about MnDOT's ability to do this right." Minneapolis City Council Member Robert Lilligren said residents also wonder whether they'll have a chance to offer input.

Bob McFarlin, assistant state transportation commissioner, said Thursday afternoon that officials are still working on how public comments will be gathered, and he reiterated that the rebuilding process will be expedited because of the bridge's importance, both economically and for national transportation needs.

JIM FOTI

DETAINEES SAID TO BE WITH MAPPING FIRM

Five men arrested for being on the wrong side of police lines around the collapse site Wednesday were experts in underwater mapping electronics who had been invited there and escorted in by law enforcement, their employer and a Minneapolis attorney said Thursday.

"They were keen to get their gear in the water," said Anthony Davis, senior vice president of commercial affairs for Codaoctopus Products Inc., an international underwater technology firm.

Davis said the arrested men included a decorated Coast Guard captain who faced the most serious charge of interfering with a death scene. The four others were cited for trespass.

Davis and Marsh Hallberg, attorney for the men, said the arrests were probably the result of misunderstandings. But Minneapolis Police Capt. Mike Martin indicated that the former Coast Guard captain had been trying to sell a $650,000 sonar unit to rescue workers.

Martin had sharp words for others planning similar forays: "I'll make sure, with every legal means possible, that you won't have the credibility to sell Girl Scout cookies," he said.

Police also detained another man who showed up at the scene and falsely claimed to be a consultant for the National Transportation Safety Board.

BILL MCAULIFFE and JIM FOTI

LIGHT RAIL PROPOSED FOR BRIDGE DESIGN

Talk of building the new I-35W bridge has spurred discussions about a new route for the Central Corridor light-rail transit line.

The idea would be to re-route the western end of the Central Corridor line connecting St. Paul and Minneapolis. Instead of having it run along Washington Avenue through campus and over the Washington Avenue bridge, the line would move to University Avenue SE and cross the Mississippi River over the new bridge.

"That would solve a bunch of problems," said Jim Erkel, director of the Land Use and Transportation Program for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Ethics. It would eliminate the need to build a tunnel underneath Washington Avenue on campus and the need to strengthen the Washington Avenue bridge to accommodate trains, he suggested.

"Doing those two things -- you'd save some $200 million," Erkel said.

Jeremy Hanson, a spokesman for Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, said Thursday that the mayor wants to see mass transit included in the design for the new bridge, but it's too early to say whether that would be light-rail trains.

ALLIE SHAH

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