By Debbie Hersman
Today marks the fifth anniversary of the collapse of the I-35W Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minn. This accident caused the deaths of 13 people and injuries to 145 others. It also raised questions about the safety of America’s roads and bridges.
Five years later, we recognize the progress made to address the deficiencies identified during our comprehensive investigation.
When the NTSB issued its final report in November 2008, we determined that a design failure led to this accident. Our safety recommendations focused on steps to improve bridge integrity and maintenance. I am pleased to report that six of these recommendations were addressed in less than two years after the report. This includes recommendations calling for improving guidance on conducting load rating calculations, consideration of key bridge elements such as gusset plates in design and inspection, and developing specifications and guidance for bridge owners to ensure that construction loads and stockpiled raw materials needed for maintenance projects do not overload the bridge.
These safety recommendations and the actions needed to complete the remaining safety recommendations will not only ensure that new bridges are being built to higher standards than their predecessors, but that all bridges will be held to that same, high standard through regular inspections and maintenance. Nobody wants to see tragedy strike in such a manner ever again, and the efforts taken by the Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials to address these deficiencies provide an improved safety structure to the bridge industry that America rides on and depends on every day.