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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R)

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POOR DESIGN RESPONSIBLE FOR I-35W BRIDGE COLLAPSE

Wednesday, November 19, 2008
A recent report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) confirmed what many of us suspected about the I-35W bridge collapse. Our state and federal legislators who immediately jumped to conclusions and were eager to place blame now have egg on their face. Lieutenant Governor Molnau, who also served our state as transportation commissioner at the time of the collapse, immediately became the scapegoat of this tragedy. It's widely known that some Democrat Minnesota senators did not get along with Molnau and used this catastrophe as a way to remove her as transportation commissioner, while simultaneously taking potshots at Governor Pawlenty's administration. Using this tragedy for political positioning is unethical and lacks sound leadership. In times of trial, Minnesotans need to work together instead of promoting agendas through such divisive behaviors. The bridge collapse became even uglier as the coordinated agenda to raise taxes became apparent. These same finger-pointing lawmakers tried to convince us if Minnesotans had been paying more taxes this bridge would not have fallen. One shameful legislator even stooped so low as to say that more bridges were ‘certain to fall’ in his attempt to politicize these horrible deaths. The use of guilt and scare tactics while bodies are still in the Mississippi River demonstrates poor taste and rational instability, and Minnesota deserves better. Unfortunately these tactics worked - at least initially. Last week, the NTSB released its findings after a thorough investigation that lasted more than a year. The findings revealed the collapse of the bridge originated with the failure of gusset plates, which were installed where bridge beams are joined together. The NTSB says the plates were sized too thin at the time of construction dating back to the 1960's. Further compounding the problem was the fact that 287 tons of construction equipment and materials were sitting right in the middle of the bridge during a bumper-to-bumper rush hour. Investigators compared this weight to that of a 747 airplane, and said it was the largest weight the bridge had ever held. The bridge's age, and subsequent maintenance of the bridge, had nothing to do with the collapse. As Bruce Magladry, the NTSB's director of the Office of Highway Safety said: "Had the gusset plates been properly sized, this bridge would still be there." Regardless of the NTSB's findings, the end result remains a horrific tragedy. But at least we now have some answers as to why the I-35W bridge fell, and despite what the DFL-controlled legislature attempted to bully us into believing, those problems were not created by the decisions made by Carol Molnau or the Pawlenty administration. Clearly the integrity of - and abuse of power from - the finger pointers needs to be questioned. We are not working toward a better Minnesota when those in authority use their power in this manner. Legislators have a full plate for 2009 and these political power plays need to cease in order for us to effectively serve the citizens of Minnesota.