Category: I-35 Bridge
Posted: 01/19/08 13:08, Edited: 01/19/08 13:24
by Dave Mindeman
I used to believe that the NTSB was one of the few really competent federal agencies. They seemed to handle investigations with meticulous accuracy. No detail was too small....no possibility dismissed. And, they were always careful to only release the facts. Speculation about final conclusions was always carefully avoided.
But then, silly me, I used to think that about FEMA, too.
The updated report from Board Chairman Mark Rosenker simply has some fundamental flaws. Reporting an original design flaw is certainly relevant, but the bridge functioned very well for 40 years and with at least 2 major upgrades along the way. Secondly, to dismiss maintenance issues as not part of the problem when there are glaring entries in inspection reports about corrosion to the gusset plates... to the point of losing half of their "inadequate" thickness, is simply not plausible.
Today, the Pioneer Press
reports another troubling omission from Chairman Rosenker. In 1996, an identical design problem helped cause a bridge along Interstate 90 over the Grand River in Ohio to sag. A later report done for the Ohio Department of Transportation concluded that the plates connecting the steel truss bridge's beams "were not adequate to support the design loads of the structure."
That report also found corrosion contributed to the failure - a factor widely speculated upon after the Aug. 1 collapse of the I-35W bridge but dismissed by Rosenker during a Washington, D.C., news conference Tuesday announcing the board's initial finding and recommendations.
Chairman Rosenker called the I-35 Bridge design problem "unprecedented" and probably a "one-of" a kind situation. Obviously, they didn't check thoroughly. Even though the NTSB did not officially investigate the Ohio bridge, the information was known to the agency. That is the kind of mistake that the NTSB, in the past, has always avoided.
But let's talk a minute about Mark Rosenker. He chairs an NTSB of 5 members....3 Republicans and 2 Democrats. According to NTSB guidelines, the board should have at least some members who have engineering backgrounds. Not one of the current 5 member board have those qualifications. That fact is also troubling since the NTSB has worked so closely with the investigative team that Governor Pawlenty hired to delve into the bridge collapse. You have to wonder who is working for whom.
In addition, Chairman Rosenker has a long and interesting resume working for 5 different Republican administrations and several national safety boards. One item that is left out of his "official" bio is that one of Rosenker's first jobs was working for CREEP. Yes, that CREEP...the Nixon Committee to Re-Elect the President. He joined the Bush administration in 2001 as a Defense Department liasion...appointed to the NTSB in 2003 and became Chairman in 2005.
The agency has had its share of turmoil. In July of 2005, Richard Healing resigned from the board, prompting this concern
:His (Healing) resignation leaves the board -- which investigates the causes of most major aviation, rail, marine, and other transportation accidents -- without a member who has a background in engineering or aviation. The lack of such expertise worries transportation safety advocates, who fear that the NTSB's effectiveness will drop. Healing's departure also comes amid some internal turmoil at the board that has employee representatives warning that morale has sunk to a new low.
Another former member, John Goglia, has expressed concern about the increasing political nature of the board:Goglia, the former member, said he's concerned that a political desire to show safety improvements is driving the reduction in new recommendations. An outside aviation safety expert, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he thought that the reductions were designed "not necessarily to improve safety, but just to get the numbers down."
Wow, there's a surprise. Bush appointees making decisions based on partisan political agendas. You know, the only thing missing from all this is:Heckuva job, Rosie.....