July 30


Remembering the 2007 Bridge Collapse in Minnesota

By Mike Spack

July 30, 2015

bridge collapse, I-35W

Guest Post by Bryant Ficek, PE, PTOE, Vice-President at Spack Consulting

An aerial view shows the collapsed I-35W bridge 04 August 2007 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Five people have been confirmed dead and 8 others missing following the 01 August bridge collapse during rush hour.      AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)On August 1, 2007, the previously unthinkable happened and the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River, in Minneapolis, Minnesota collapsed during rush hour traffic. The collapse of this bridge, that I drove over frequently, killed 13 people and injured another 145. Rather than focus on the collapse this anniversary, including the causes and associated issues like transportation maintenance funding, I’d like to share the positive responses to this tragic event:

  • First responders, in addition to average citizens, helping people get away from the danger
  • Doctors, nurses, and phycologists assisting with initial injuries and emotional scarring that followed
  • Federal, state, county, and city politicians all doing their part to assess the damage and get the funding for replacement
  • Multiple government agencies’ personnel and numerous consultants working overtime on the new design
  • Contractors and construction workers working around the clock to replace a key cog in our city
  • Commuters dealing with additional everyday congestion
  • Everyone doing what they could to support those who needed it and thankful the damage wasn’t worse

MinneapolisBridge-MassBuildingTradesorgOn September 18, 2008 the new bridge opened in just over 13 months from the fateful day – an incredibly fast pace for such a large unplanned removal and replacement construction project. I was a consultant traffic engineer, working on the traffic control during construction and designed the permanent traffic signals on the local road. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in a small part in the redevelopment of this bridge that pulled together a community. A true silver lining.

Many positive things can be accomplished in the face of a tragedy when we all work together. Imagine what we can accomplish if we work together all the time.

Photo Source:  MassBuildingTrades.org

  • We had a similar situation when a 2200 ft long bridge was closed due to a discovery of a fatal structural flaw, and the replacement structure was designed, built and opened in 25 months.

    I recall engineers involved talking about working 16 hour days. Obviously, such effort is unsustainable without serious health effects for the project staff. I have to wonder, though, if lessons learned in these projects could be used throughout the project delivery system. Could state and federal dedicated transportation funds be saved through process streamlining and cost savings rather than increased fuel taxes?

  • Good comment Jim – I agree that lessons learned and streamlined process could be a part of the solution. However, with the needs we are facing, I still think a long-term answer for funding is absolutely necessary. I’m just not sure what that would/could look like.

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    Mike Spack

    My mission is to help traffic engineers, transportation planners, and other transportation professionals improve our world.

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