« ""At peace." | Main | "You know it's bad when your local McDonalds staff ask you if you're ok." »

August 03, 2007

The Kids are Alright...

Hi, this is guest poster, Fabulous Babe. I don’t post too often, but as Jim has been dealing with his grandpa’s death in Kentucky, Jack and I have been in, unfortunately, the new media capital of the world, Minneapolis MN. Unless you have been under a rock or in solitary confinement, you know that a major, 8 lane interstate bridge collapsed here on Wednesday evening. Nearly 80 people injured, five deaths, and victims still in the River. The emergency response here has been amazing. There have been a lot of Good Samaritans around too.

Jack and I had gone to the Racetrack’s house for dinner. They have been on a nice vacation to Hawaii, so we were catching up on all the activity and the kids were playing. About 6:20, Mr. Racetrack's mother called from Fargo wanting to know if they were OK and that the ‘35W bridge fell down.’ We kind of were laughing, thinking this was insane and she was exaggerating, but turned on the TV anyway. What we saw was shocking. Our nice dinner ended with the three of us sitting slack jawed in front of the TV with the map from the phone book trying to orient ourselves to the helicopter video.

I took this bridge pretty frequently over the past three years. 35W is the easiest route from my office to downtown Minneapolis and to the Univ of MN where I did my MBA. The kind of strange thing is that the bridge is so high above the river, you don’t really feel like you are on a bridge, plus there is usually lots of traffic, so you don’t have time to look around a lot. Probably the hardest thing to get from all the video and pictures is the actual size of the structure. It is a wide, long bridge. I haven’t made it to the site, but next week I have a lunch meeting in the general area at the U so I will probably get to look at it then.

We don’t know anyone directly affected. Several of my coworkers had crossed the bridge an hour or so before on their way home. They are pretty shaken up over this. The mood here is very eerie. Since not all the victims are identified yet, many people have this feeling that they ‘are going to know someone.’ It seems to be hanging over everyone’s head. The traffic seems OK now, but I think a lot of people stayed home from work on Thurs and Friday. Monday will be the real test of the system. We are in for a long, long process of rebuilding. All of this is on top of at least four other major construction projects going on in the Metro.

Which brings me to the one closest to the house. When we moved here, a major bridge replacement project had just gotten underway – ‘Wakota Bridge Project.’ The Wakota bridge was an ancient steel four lane bridge across a wide part of the river. The replacement plan was for two new spans with six lanes each direction, started in 2002 to be completed in 2007. The project started at like $250mm and 5 years. I often wondered driving over the old bridge during the construction of the first span – ‘how does this thing handle all the huge trucks on the 494 bypass and something like 160,000 cars per day.’ Very often the traffic was bumper to bumper like on 35W. The first span was near completion and inspectors found cracks in it before a single car drove on it, so they had to go back and reinforce it before it opened because It was designed incorrectly. That delayed the opening 1 year and created such construction differences, that the company hired to complete the project backed out. Now the state is rebidding the project, adding another year to the process. (The new cost estimate is something like $400mm.) This week’s tragedy really made me think about how close the old Wakota bridge was to failure and ‘how structurally deficient was it??’

Well, I just wanted you to know that we are OK. It is really strange to see your city on wall to wall media coverage. The last time this happened was in Seattle during the WTO riots. Somehow we find ourselves in interesting situations.


Posted by Jim at August 3, 2007 08:58 PM


Post a comment

Remember Me?