It's awfully easy to blame a deceased bridge designer for the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge, but I'm not buying it.

It stood for 40 years, under increasingly heavy loads, and didn't collapse until it started to corrode.

This still seems like a maintenance issue because the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) should have looked into the strength of the gusset plates once they knew they were corroding.

With the gusset plates corroding, you would assume they would do the calculations on how much thickness was need to support the load vs. how much thickness remained on the plate. Was this vital step missed?

ROBERT HAUPERT, ZIMMERMAN, MINN.

Are the gusset plates really to blame?

I read the gusset plates were a half-inch too thin. Were they too thin for the loads the original design was expected to carry? The bridge lasted how many years?

I would argue added weight, construction equipment and of course corrosion caused the failure and the gusset plates were the weakest link. Maybe MnDOT should have recalculated the loads and the condition of the plates during the inspection process.

When I change a design, I verify that my changes do not have any harmful side-effects. Was that process done with the bridge, taking into account all the variables?

It would not be the first time a government agency overlooked something that was staring them in the eye.

ERIC KOHNKE, ANDOVER

MnDOT deserves a nonpolitical leader

Isn't it interesting that as recently as last Monday, MnDOT was not going to recalculate the load rating on the Hastings bridge, despite a new, dire report on its condition. A day later we had a total reversal.

It looks to me a lot like how MnDOT treated the Interstate 35W bridge. Get a critical report? Play down or avoid the key recommendations. Maybe even pressure the outside consultants into a least cost, least desirable alternative.

Yet Sen. Dick Day defends MnDOT, saying they "did everything humanly possible" to ensure the I-35 bridge was safe. Everything, that is, that a cash-strapped MnDOT can maybe afford.

Over and over, "Credit Card" Tim's political partner in charge of MnDOT always chooses the least-cost option. Whether it would ensure safety or not is secondary to whether it supports his no new taxes agenda.

It is time for MnDOT to be headed by an administrator who will promote and defend needed revenues and investments in safe and efficient transportation, not on-the-cheap patches a few bonds can buy. Having a lieutenant governor in charge has seriously compromised MnDOT leadership.

RALPH WYMAN, MINNEAPOLIS

LGA is about reducing disparities

Communities in the Twin Cities metropolitan area apparently have forgotten the original purpose of the Local Government Aid program ("Suburbs want new recipe for how state aid is given," Jan. 10).

The program was created to reduce the tax-base disparities among local governments in order to make it easier for them to provide a basic level of government services. It was not designed to simply be a financing tool for local law enforcement programs.

Given that 75 percent of Minnesota's city property wealth is concentrated in the Twin Cities -- and much of that in the suburbs -- it is reasonable that much of the aid is sent to Minneapolis and St. Paul, cities with property wealth and heavy city service burdens. Another sizable portion of the aid is sent to greater Minnesota cities, cities that lack property wealth and are still required to provide local services that are not required of suburban governments.

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is not opposed to increasing Local Government Aid payments to needy suburbs, but that should not be done at the expense of cities already dependent on the state aid program. The suburbs lost their Local Government Aid in 2003, when $150 million in funding was cut from the he program to balance a $4.5 billion shortfall in the state budget. Simply changing the distribution formula will not solve the problem. Funding for Local Government Aid must be increased if more state aid is to be sent to more cities.

MAYOR TOM KUNTZ OWATONNA, MINN.; PRESIDENT, COALITION OF GREATER MINNESOTA CITIES

Creekside Commons: well suited to Tangletown

The Jan. 17 article "Housing with no welcome mat" only provided part of the story of Creekside Commons. While your staff writer mentions the size of the development (30 units), it takes a careful reading to understand that it was reduced 25 percent (from 40 units). Also, while he points to "several dozen" neighbors opposed to the project, he doesn't mention that the significant support from the Tangletown neighborhood as a whole.

City planners and the City Council wholly support the project, which is attractive, well designed and well suited to its location. The article doesn't mention that there are several apartment buildings adjacent to the site, or that the profile of the land and lot make the building appear much smaller than it actually is (and in proportion to the surrounding buildings). In fact, Harry Kaiser's home is only a few feet shorter than the Creekside Commons roofline.

There is no logical reason not to build Creekside Commons on the planned site. Regarding the opponents to Creekside Commons, what it comes down to is they just don't want it in their back yard.

BOB POMROY, MINNEAPOLIS