Tillberry questions Dayton on URS Corp.

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A state legislator from Fridley sent a letter to question Gov. Mark Dayton why a company that consulted on the I-35W bridge before its collapse is being considered for work on the Southwest Corridor light rail project.

URS Corp., was a consultant on the I-35W bridge before its 2007 collapse, which killed 13 people and injured 145 others. The company paid $52.4 million to settle lawsuits from victims of the collapse. The company also consulted on the design of the Sabo Bridge, which was shut down due to safety concerns in February after a suspension cable failed.

URS Corp. is one of two companies being considered by the Metropolitan Council for a $100 million engineering contract on the Southwest Corridor LRT.

In the letter sent Tuesday, Rep. Tom Tillberry, DFL-Fridley, encouraged Dayton, who has expressed skepticism about URS Corp. in the past, to continue to press the Metropolitan Council for more information.

"My understanding is that the original bridge design was faulty," Tillberry wrote. "However, it is hard to understand how this faulty design work could be missed by URS just four years prior to the bridge going down and with the benefit of over 40 years of better understanding of bridge design."

Tillberry told MPR News that a good friend of his died in the I-35W bridge collapse. As a retiring legislator from a district that won't include the light rail line, he said he saw his role as that of a steward of the state's safety and pocketbook.

"We had the I-35 bridge fall, bridges are not supposed to fall down," Tillberry said. "Because there were 13 people that died on that bridge...I just don't understand why somebody would be considering a company that has that track record."

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Council said no decisions to award the contract have been made, and that negotiations were still in progress. Met Council spokesperson Laura Baenen responded to MPR News' request for comment in an email, "We're not commenting on the negotiating process on the preliminary engineering contract for Southwest LRT, which would include how the letter would influence it."