Design flaw likely cause of Minnesota bridge collapse

by Steve Handlesman
NBC News

The National Transportation Safety Board Tuesday blamed a design flaw for the collapse of that freeway bridge in Minneapolis that killed 13 people last August.

The news came as the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission called for a rise in gas taxes to cover the cost of fixing the rest of the Nation's bridges and roads.
The gas tax would go up to fix all of our old roads and bridges.

But, the NTSB says age was not the problem with the bridge that fell in Minneapolis.

Investigators say it was a badly-designed, undersized part called a gusset plate that allowed the collapse of the I35-W bridge.

There are 224 of them connecting the bridge's girders.

The NTSB found 16 of the plates that should have been one inch thick, were instead just a half-inch.

NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker said, "It was a shock, if you will to the investigating team."

Experts still don't know what triggered the collapse August 1st, but say the structure was dangerous the day it was opened in 1967.

Rosenker said, "Errors of this nature have little chance of being discovered after construction."

Coincidentally, a two year study of America's surface transportation found the system overcrowded, wearing out, and in need of attention.

"This crisis is not coming, ladies and gentlemen.  It is here!" said Tom Skancke of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.         
The commission recommends spending $225 billion a year to repair roads,  paying for that by hiking the gasoline tax to 40 cents a gallon over 5 years,  and building more mass transit.

"A failure to act would be catastrophic to this Nation," said Jack Schenendorf of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.

What about the bridges?

How many more have hidden design flaws like the one in Minneapolis?

The NTSB guessed not many, but now it wants the design of every bridge checked to be sure.
The Safety Board says that should start immediately on bridges being renovated or about to carry heavier loads.