URS Corp. has offered to fly its chief executive officer to Minnesota to meet with Gov. Mark Dayton to show why the company should get more state contracts despite its work on the collapsed Interstate 35W bridge.
The offer from URS is the latest volley in a growing dispute over whether the San Francisco-based company, a state consultant when the 35W bridge collapsed in 2007, should now get a $100 million contract to help build the Southwest Corridor light-rail line.
As a gubernatorial candidate in 2010, Dayton said that URS should not get any more state contracts at least until lawsuits related to the bridge collapse were settled. The company paid $52.4 million in 2010 to settle lawsuits related to the tragedy, which killed 13 people and injured more than a hundred.
But last month a Dayton spokesperson said the governor still had “very strong concerns” over the company getting more state contracts.
In a letter to the governor on Friday, a top URS official in Minnesota said that company employees in Minnesota “grieved for the loss of our fellow citizens when the bridge fell – it was a tragedy that deeply affected our community and its impacts are still felt today.
“However, we, URS, did not design or build the I-35W bridge, nor were we involved in any of the construction work, including the resurfacing being done when the bridge collapsed,” said Tom Bader, vice president and Minneapolis office manager for URS.
“In fact, there were no findings of fault against us,” he added.
Bader said that Martin Koffel, URS’ chairman and chief executive officer, was prepared to fly to Minnesota to talk to Dayton.
Following the collapse, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the tragedy was due to a decades-old design flaw compounded by extra weight on the bridge at the time of the accident.
The controversy escalated again last week when Rep. Tom Tillberry, DFL-Fridley, wrote to Dayton, asking him not to give URS more state contracts. Tillberry said he lost a neighbor in the tragedy.
“This company has clearly shown that they cannot be entrusted to build projects that will keep Minnesotans safe,” Tillberry wrote.
“I, along with many other Minnesotans, lost a good friend on August 1, 2007. Others lost fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, aunts and uncles,” the legislator said. “I am sure that they would ask – as I do – what does a company have to do before we will cease to do business with them?”