Hennepin County commissioners approved a $750,000 no-bid contract Tuesday for repairs to the Martin Olav Sabo bridge.

The winner of the work was Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc., which has been operating under a separate $550,000 contract to investigate why the Minneapolis span failed and to design permanent repairs.

The tallest set of cables on the bicycle/pedestrian bridge over Hiawatha Avenue S. broke loose in February, and a second set was removed after inspectors discovered they were attached to a cracked connector plate.

A June report by Wiss, Janney, Elstner concluded that the bridge had not been designed to withstand even light winds, causing fatigue in the cable connector plates.

County officials requesting approval of the six-month contract said that if they publicly bid the work, construction would not start before 2013. They said any delay would prolong safety concerns and lead to ongoing costs to monitor the bridge. Wiss, Janney, Elstner can complete the work before year's end, according to the county.

"It's considered an emergency contract in the sense that we want to get the repair done, and it's for the safety of the public," said Debra Brisk, assistant county administrator for public works.

The bridge opened in November 2007. Hennepin County oversaw construction of the span before ownership was transferred to Minneapolis in 2008.

The city and county are in talks with contractors, including design firm URS Corp., about who is ultimately responsible for paying for repairs.

Maya Rao • 612-673-4210