Posted: 06/18/08 22:53, Edited: 06/18/08 22:59
by Dave Mindeman
Maybe some of the mystery can be explained.
I am following up on yesterday's post about the I-35 Bridge and the HNTB report that involved both the Ventura/Tinklenburg and Pawlenty/Molnau administrations. I had questioned how this report could have sat unnoticed by both administrations.
However, yesterday the Tinklenburg campaign sent me a timeline that gives an outline of how events happened as they understood them based on what they know and what was involved in the Gray Plant Mooty report to the legislature.
I reprint it here as it was sent to me:
*January 1999:* El Tinklenberg appointed MnDOT Commissioner.
*May 1999:* MnDOT?s Central Bridge office enters into contract with University of Minnesota to study possible fatigue in the 35W Bridge?s deck truss. The University study looks at three factors: 1) Is there fatigue cracking? 2) Is there potential for fatigue cracking? 3) Should action be taken (retrofitting or further inspection) to address fatigue concerns?
*March 2001:* The University issues its report, stating that fatigue
cracking is not expected for the remainder of the bridge's estimated use. All recommendations from the report are followed by MnDOT.
*October 2001:* HNTB approaches MnDOT Central Bridge office with an unsolicited proposal to study the 35W Bridge's redundancy. HNTB proposal never makes it higher than the Central Bridge office.
*October 2002:* El Tinklenberg leaves MnDOT.
*January 2003:* Carol Molnau appointed MnDOT Commissioner.
*March 2003:* MnDOT issues Request for Interest regarding an inspection of the bridge's superstructure (identify areas of concern for fatigue and what should happen should a high-risk area fail, decipher repair methods, and determine the best way to stage a deck replacement with possible stresses to the bridge. Both HNTB and URS responded to the RFI. URS was selected.
This timeline has two references to the "Central Bridge Office". In a May 22, 2008 Minnpost report by G.R. Anderson about the Gray Plant Mooty report, the Central Bridge Office is referred to in this manner:
In fact, inspectors didn't document much at all; the investigation revealed, somewhat unbelievably, that "MnDOT operates largely as an oral culture," according to the report. This is compounded by fact that MnDOT has a "Central Bridge" office in Oakdale, but the 35W bridge also was located in the "Metro District"?it wasn't entirely clear who knew what about the bridge, who told whom, and who was supposed to do something about it.
That may explain why the HNTB report got buried. It was never passed up the ladder. And if that is the case, there was probably never much chance that the Pawlenty administration would have been aware of it either.
Yet, in 2003, MnDOT issued a request for firms to make their case for inspection on the bridge....HNTB was one of them. Wouldn't logic dictate that HNTB would make their bid with at least a reference to the fact that they had made a preliminary evaluation 1 to 2 years before?
Yet, "URS was selected".
Tinklenburg was basing his decisions on the University of Minnesota study that seemed to minimize any immediate problems for the bridge. This timeline states, "All recommendations from the report are followed by MnDOT".
There was probably no reason to be looking for anything else to follow up that study, even though the HNTB report came into the Bridge Office shortly after that.
However, it is little disconcerting that this report could sit unnoticed for years while discussions about the bridge continue through several cycles.
The Grant Plant Mooty report pointed out problems with MnDOT procedures (again form the Minnpost report):
? MnDOT policies were not followed in critical respects.
? Decision-making responsibility was diffuse and unclear.
? Financial considerations may have adversely affected decision-making.
? Expert advice was not used effectively.
? MnDOT did not follow its own policies with respect to reporting the deteriorating condition of the bridge and did not document inspection report findings
? MnDOT did not sufficiently consider the impact of the 2007 construction activities.
Over the years, MnDOT reforms have been talked about and promises made by various people. Has anything improved?
Maybe this can best be described with a line from the movie "Cool Hand Luke":
"What we have here is a failure to communicate!"