Posted: 06/25/08 21:20, Edited: 06/26/08 05:15
by Dave Mindeman
"It's obvious with the bridge falling down the trust that you folks and the public has in us has diminished. I can't sit here -- you can't sit here -- and go back and forth, point by point," he said. "Please, trust us on this."
--Khani Sahebjam, MnDOT deputy commissioner.
Sorry MnDOT, trust is something you earn.
You don't get it by being evasive and stonewalling questions.
You don't get it by paying for public relations firms.
You don't get it by simply calling criticism...a political attack.
MnDOT has a trust problem. I think they know it but their responses indicate that they don't really intend to fix it. They just want us to accept what they say and move on.
Except it doesn't work that way.
One of the major points in the 12 page response letter sent to the legislature is this:
Bridge safety has not been compromised by funding considerations.
Maybe safety itself wasn't ever meant to be compromised. But, they don't offer anything that proves funding wasn't a major factor in making bridge decisions about which one gets fixed and the methods used to fix it, which has to have an indirect effect on safety.
The evidence is certainly circumstantial but hard to dismiss.
First -- the back and forth between MnDOT and URS regarding the retrofit of the I-35 Bridge centers around a choice of replating (an expensive project) vs. more inspections (only slightly increasing the budget). MnDOT contends that URS initiated the change -- the e-mail exchanges say that MnDOT wanted and demanded other choices.
Second -- Once the transportation bill was passed by overriding the Governor's veto, MnDOT has embarked on a 10 year project which includes 11 major bridge replacements among 160 bridge projects in Minnesota. Those bridges didn't just suddenly require repairs -- that heavily insinuates a huge backlog of needs.
Third -- During the bidding on the Crosstown Project, MnDOT came up with the ridiculous scheme to have the winning bidder of the project "front" the money themselves, until MnDOT could pay for it. No bids were forthcoming and the project was delayed, yet again.
Fourth -- The Wakota Bridge. A project that was bungled from the beginning, MnDOT didn't have the resources to get it fixed. Molnau sent the project out for a complete rebid...only to have the same firm that she fired, come back with the lowest bid. Virtually, the same bid they had originally offered when it became obvious the project had to be redone. Another desperate attempt to save money and deflect blame.
And the bottom line is this:
Pawlenty knew that MnDOT needed funding. His plan of more and more borrowing failed and was not politically viable. The legislature, twice put a bill on his desk -- sealed and delivered which would have given MnDOT what they needed. He put more credence in a political pledge than the needs of state transportation. That was his choice and that is fact.
Now, after all we have been through, it is hard not to make the correlation that funding is a factor in everything. They may not have intentionally compromised bridge safety in this manner, but it had an indirect effect.
Trust needs to be earned.