Report: MnDOT hired company but didn't use it for bridge inspection

Bent bridge
Wreckage of the I-35W bridge in downtown Minneapolis.
MPR Photo/William Wilcoxen

In what turned out to be the bridge's final inspection, the Star Tribune reported, MnDOT staff members used visual and ultrasonic methods in May to go over just over half of one critical section of the bridge. But MnDOT then suspended the inspection, planning to resume it this fall after a resurfacing job on the bridge was finished.

The bridge collapsed Aug. 1, killing 13 people and injuring more than 100.

The Star Tribune said the unfinished inspection raised questions about why MnDOT didn't complete the inspection in the spring or use its consultant, URS, after awarding it a contract for that purpose.

"The inspectors who were going through it did not have need for assistance," MnDOT chief bridge engineer Dan Dorgan told the newspaper in an interview. "I talked to the inspectors sometime after May. Pretty brief. 'Did you find any problems?' And the answer was no."

The newspaper also reported that the initial focus of the special inspection was going to be on the south end of the bridge, the part believed to have collapsed first, but MnDOT inspectors instead started on the north end. MnDOT said the switch was made for logistical convenience.

MnDOT defended its handling of the inspection, saying it intended to inspect only some of the critical bridge elements in May, then review the inspection procedure in late August before completing the task in the fall.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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