Wednesday, August 01, 2007

ABC Nightline: Minneapolis Bridge collapse on I 35W across Mississippi River today

Today the bridge carrying both directions of I 35W, which crosses the Mississippi River about one mile east of the heart of downtown Minneapolis, collapsed suddenly at 6:05 PM CDT today, during the evening rush hour.

ABC "Nightline" covered this story in detail (along with coverage of Barack Obama's promise to step in for Pakistan in the border areas).

I lived in the Churchill Apartments, the 33 story apartment building on First and Marquette, across from the orange post office building, from 1997-2003. From the swimming pool and gym room on the top floor, I could see the River with all of the dams and spillways and bridges, and many freight trains. It would have been a great platform to film from. Except during my last two months there, I walked to work on the Skyway most of the time that I lived there. When I drove home from my job near MSP airport just before moving, I did not have to cross the bridge. The bridge was about one mile from my apartment. When coming home from north of the City (like Roseville on 36, or any point on 35W) I usually got off on Washington St. just before crossing the river.

The total destruction shown on television is quite shocking, with the central portion in the river, and large areas of collapse on the approach. The collapse has occurred in mid summer, with a temperature in the 80s. The theoretical risk might have been greater at cold temperatures and refreezing in winter. However, after a dry period, there were torrential rains a few weeks ago and some minor flooding. (Minneapolis had major flooding in July 1997, just before I moved there.)

CNN (Anderson Cooper) points to a University of Minnesota engineering study that described inadequate redundancy on the bridge construction.

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