Perspectives from residents and commuters

Emergency vehicles
Emergency vehicles on the north side of the bridge.
Courtesy of Shannon Klug, August 1, 7:02 p.m.

I don't even know why I chose 280 rather than 35W.

"I had a really weird experience earlier in the day on that bridge. I don't normally drive that bridge because it's just not on my route to go to work in Golden Valley. However, my son is going to a day camp at our church in Roseville, so I was taking that route this week as it was the shortest between Roseville and Golden Valley. I drove the bridge both ways without any problems on Monday and Tuesday. Never thought about it. Saw the construction, and it looked like nothing major... just a headache for commuters. However, on my way to work Wednesday, I happened to look over the side as I was crawling along at 30 mph and thought, out of nowhere, "Gee that's a big drop." When I went back to pick up my son later (long before the collapse), for some reason, I opted to drive past the 35W exit on 94 and used 280 instead. I don't even know why I chose 280 rather than 35W. I thought it was a whim. Now, I'm not so sure. Anyway, as I said, it was weird."

-- Kathy Ackerman, Brooklyn Park

We have destroyed the infrastructure of Iraq while we and our lawmakers allow the infrastructure of our own country to collapse.

"I live near the bridge and was at a meeting when it happened. I had driven over the 4th St. bridge crossing over 35W about 15 minutes before. What comes to my mind this morning (the day after the collapse), is how these kinds of core infrastructure disasters are going to become more commonplace in a federal and state budgeting environment where unnecessary war and unnecessary professional sports funding take precedence over caring for our infrastructure and people. State and local governments just do not have enough money to support the basic needs of their citizens -- roads and bridges being a big part of that. And this is the price we all pay for not fighting back against continuing support for the richest Americans while the rest of the country crumbles around them. I heard this morning that it would take $1.3 trillion to make all of the road and bridge repairs that are necessary around the U.S. An economist with MSNBC estimated in October 2006 that we are spending $1.8 billion per week on the war in Iraq (this doesn't include money spent on the war in Afghanistan and other military efforts around the globe). How can this be right? We have destroyed the infrastructure of Iraq while we and our lawmakers allow the infrastructure of our own country to collapse. We need to stop this madness now.

-- Jess D., Minneapolis

I want to know why the Metro Transit and other public transit authorities have not stepped up to offer alternatives to car transit in this crisis. When a portion of the freeway collapsed recently in San Francisco, public transit was increased and offered free to all, and many employers offered employees telecommuting options for the days following the crisis. There is a public and private response missing here.

-- Fran Sepler, St. Louis Park

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Its time we paid for public things like new bridges, not private things like stadiums.

"I think it's time we as Minnesotans start seeing the 'signs':

*The Twins ground-breaking ceremony is postponed today.

*The taxpayers have to build these billionaires a new playground.

*The city, state, and feds should see to it that our money goes to what's important.

Its time we paid for public things like new bridges, not private things like stadiums."

-- Daniel Klonowski, Minneapolis

"My typical commute has me driving over the collapsed bridge twice a day. When construction started on the bridge itself a few weeks ago, I was stuck in stop-and-go traffic on the bridge one morning and decided I needed to take another route. I had the feeling the bridge was neither tested nor rated for its use during the construction."

-- Robert Spencer, Minneapolis

"My daughter was just about to get on the bridge to come home from work, but was waiting in line to get on when the bridge collapsed.

All I am hearing today on the news is about getting the bridge rebuilt. This should not be our focus at this time. We should be focusing on the recovery mission and what caused it. The politicians always have a way to try and smooth over something tragic. They aren't concerned until something like this happens."

--Michelle K., Apple Valley

"We are all affected by this tragedy and will continue to be affected for years to come as the bridge is replaced. This, of course, will add additional wear and tear to other roadways that I'm sure are also in need repair and maintenance. Let this be a reminder to Minnesotans that taxes are important and they do serve a purpose. I have no problem paying my tax dues as long as they benefit our community and the public good. Roads and transportation, health care, education, police, fire, and emergency support are all essential programs that rely on public funding. I urge Minnesotans to reevaluate the need for "extras" such as stadiums and tax cuts. We live as a community and we are all personally responsible to ensure the quality of life and safety of those in our community."

-- Aja Halverson, Saint Paul

...probably a low-level employee who had...serious concerns regarding this bridge and was discouraged from pushing that information too hard.

"All bureaucracies have at their core at certain amount of lackey behavior. That is, if something is marginally questionable in terms of determining its efficacies, low-level employees may or may not be encouraged to bring that information forward. And the "truth in work" standards and the cost-to-enforcement ratio standards often encourage those employees to avoid raising questions or asserting concerns for fear of loss of status or future promotions. This is always the case in places like Minnesota (and for all its systems, including schools, justice system, social service system and transportation). That is: Never question that status quo if it goes against conventional standards. This is obviously what happened with this bridge. There is probably a low-level employee who had direct knowledge about serious concerns regarding this bridge and was discouraged from pushing that information too hard."

-- John Good, Minneapolis

"I was affected heavily by the collapse. I am a 21-year-old student at the University of Minnesota Morris, and currently am in Washington, D.C. on an internship. I have been battling homesickness for some time now, and since last week, have been counting the days until I'm able to return to Minnesota. Now that this has happened, I want to return to Minnesota all the more. To be away from the state I love at such a time as this is extremely aggravating. I wish I could be with my fellow Minnesotans, who now feel more like family than strangers, to grieve alongside them, and also to help out in anything I could do. However, I have realized that home never really leaves you. I grew up in North Branch, about an hour north of the Twin Cities, and although I am so far away, the person in me that has driven that bridge time and time again felt a shudder in his chest. Though I am far from home, I now realize I carry a piece of it with me wherever I go. I love Minnesota, and while this is a terrible event, I am very optimistic that we will pull through this, as our response thus far has been exceptional. Today, I am still proud to call myself a Minnesotan."

--William O'Brien, Morris

You just don't expect this ever to hit home.

"I live just a few minutes from the bridge on the East Bank. I took that bridge twice everyday to and from work. Yesterday I had taken the day off, and around 5:30 p.m., I was about to leave to meet my friends in Uptown for sushi. But I decided that I shouldn't leave so early, so I stayed and watched some TV for a while. I got in my car around 6:30 and noticed all this smoke and people running towards University Ave. I was so confused that I went to turn my car around to go back home when I noticed part of the bridge sticking into the air. I went home and got my roommate and we walked over to the area. There was a guy in the intersection of 10th Ave. and University directing traffic. He wasn't with the police, but just an ordinary man who got out and tried to help. We then ran over to the 10th Ave. bridge to get a better look. It was just horrible what we saw. We couldn't go very far because at that point, officials were trying to get people off the bridge. You just don't expect this ever to hit home."

--Lance Pemberton, Minneapolis

"Note how the discourse will center on finding blame. This is a waste of time right now. Our concern now should be safety, and not winning political points at work! Here is the only way to prevent this from happening again: Test the validity and reliability of the inspection methodology. If the methodology isn't reliable or valid, then the inspections must be redone right away with a method that is always accurate. Do this, and we significantly reduce the likelihood of this sort of disaster happening again. Don't do this, and drivers should question their safety while crossing any bridge."

--Jeff Cook, St. Paul

"The history of the I-35 Bridge is rather sad having rapidly taken whole neighborhoods by Imminent Domain, our family business included. The Bridge went up as fast as the families, businesses and old histories were exterminated. Dog Town, the University of Minnesota and SE -NE Minneapolis was changed forever. I have always been struck by the childlike "erector set" quality of the Bridge that vibrated, was loud and seemed narrower than one might expect, avoiding driving on it whenever possible. As fast as it went up, it came down... leaving as much sorry and heartbreak as when it first began."

-- Mary Madeco-Smith, Little Falls.

...safety standards that I've seen before on bridges weren't taking place during this construction process.

"I work at UMN in a building right next to the bridge collapse. I walk or ride my bike almost every day underneath this bridge. There is an access road blocked off with a path (it's a short cut way to take to the main campus.) Just the other day walking underneath the bridge, I heard the jackhammers above me and thought, what if pieces or the bridge collapsed on me (the construction used no screens or anything to block the work being done on the bridge). Some days you would walk underneath and you could see daylight shining through the road where the jackhammers were drilling above. One day I was walking underneath the bridge and there were construction workers underneath the bridge where the bridge met the road, drilling away. And, there's been huge chunks of concrete (the size of a football helmet) all over underneath the bridge and steel girders and rods from the concrete all underneath the bridge strewn all around. As I walked underneath I looked up to make sure nothing would fall on me. So, this is very scary and the work of the construction crew needs to be very carefully reviewed. Because, safety standards that I've seen before on bridges weren't taking place during this construction process. Luckily I went home early today, but, I usually leave work around that time or later. I just hope no one from our division (Epidemiology) were hurt or killed from this disaster."

-- Cheryl Barber, Minneapolis

"This is tangential to collapse; I was at the Dome for the Twins game. Most knew about the collapse before the announcement came at game time. Game was surreal: players only slightly more interested than fans; no lines in the silent halls at food standOK(ok, a few lines at beer stands by younger fans); little noise in stands (everyone listening to their radios); not a lot of cheering for anything, none of the usual between inning activities, just music playing. It was quietly suggested that fans stay at game as long as they could, not even think of walking to the river to look, and announcements kept us apprised of roads closed; bridges closed; and alternate routes being few and far between. When I left, it was so quiet. Carloads of MPD reservists 4-6 each car were pulling up outside of dome and outside of Guthrie (could see down the street) and were staffing corners all throughout the corridor to 94 and to stop progress towards the river. I got home to a phone call (taped) from Dave St. Peter of the Minnesota Twins, advising us season ticket fans and group purchases of the postponement of Thursday's planned game and groundbreaking. Then I turned the TV on. I commend your entire staff for your coverage of the event, but no station (and I listened to 4 radio stations) were able to convey the sheer devastation of the scene, no words could communicate the breadth of the devastation and loss of life. I know now, that as I listened to your reporters, I was focused not on the actual words, but making pictures in my mind of what was being said...but those pictures were tinged with hope...of which there was none."

--Anne Skenzich, Minneapolis