Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 08/03/07 00:41, Edited: 08/03/07 04:07
by Dave MindemanAfter a study raised concern about cracks, the state was given two alternatives: Add steel plates to reinforce critical parts or conduct a thorough inspection of certain areas to see if there were additional cracks. They chose the inspection route, beginning that examination in May.
--information from Dan Dorgan, State Bridge Engineer
Before we discuss that information, let's review the larger picture. It has been a little confusing to decipher all the interpretations of times and conclusions of the various inspection reports. At first blush, it would seem that most of the inspections did show some structural problems, but final decisions, on what to do about it, were judgment calls.
As some sort of explanation, MNDOT has been using comparisons that show a large number of US bridges fall into the same designated category. This is not, ultimately, reassuring.
It looks as though inspections were not neglected. They appear to have been done on a regular basis.
But it is the conclusion reached in the first paragraph that I find particularly disturbing. Two alternatives: One requiring an expensive and extensive reinforcement. (Another project to add to a full MNDOT calendar and a dept that just doesn't have the money.) The other, a cheaper inspection route that would delay any real action to a later time.
The State chose the latter. Maybe this is just a judgment call and they made a mistake. But, given the track record of this administration on transportation costs, the final choice was probably never in doubt.
We need to remember that all choices have consequences.... simply taking the choice that is the "cheap" one, is not always the best one. UPDATE
: Star Tribune is running a story this morning about this very same decision. Only its worse than I thought....MNDOT had actually strted to seek bids on a reinforcement project but decided against it. To quote the article:But Dorgan told the Star Tribune Thursday that plans changed. "We decided to handle it with inspections instead," he said. Gary Peterson, MnDOT's assistant bridge engineer, said plating would have required drilling thousands of holes in the bridge.
"If you take a look at drilling all of those holes in a bridge that is already fracture critical you could initiate flaws that might initiate a fracture," Peterson said. If they knew this bridge had problems bad enough to make attempts at reinforcement a problem, why was that bridge still allowed to take on 100,000 plus cars a day -- and without weight restrictions?