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Plans for Accelerated Bridge Replacement Draw Criticism in Minn.

August 16, 2007

ST. PAUL, Minn. --- Some state legislators and residents in Minnesota are expressing concern that state transportation officials appear willing to quickly move forward with plans to replace the Interstate 35W bridge without knowing exactly what led to the bridge's collapse. State legislators on Wednesday spent more than two hours questioning transportation officials about the collapse of the bridge and the proposed design of the replacement bridge, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times."In the equation between building this bridge fast, and building it right, that equal sign in between has a big question mark over it," state Sen. Ann Rest said during a joint hearing of the House and Senate transportation committees.Preliminary plans for the replacement bridge call for 10 lanes wide --- two lanes wider than the old bridge. Plans also call for the new bridge to be completed by the end of next year. Back in the 1960s, the bridge took nearly twice as much time to build.Meanwhile, National Transportation Safety Board investigators continue their probe into the bridge's collapse, and divers search for four people who remain missing after their vehicles fell into the Mississippi River. The death count for the tragedy now officially stands at nine.Last week, NTSB investigators discovered a possible design flaw with the bridge's gusset plates that connect the angled steel beams. Investigators also suspect the weight of construction equipment and materials during repair work may have played a role in the collapse.Earlier this week, state transportation officials set Dec. 1 as a deadline for inspecting all 3,419 state highway bridges as well as locally operated bridges shown to be deficient. Gov. Tim Pawlenty has ordered that all bridges undergo an inspection.
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