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Four people are dead. Eight people are still missing. There are still no answers and there won’t be for a while. I’m referring, of course, to the horrible Minneapolis bridge collapse last week that occurred at rush hour traffic. It’s almost a miracle that the death toll was not higher considering the magnitude of the incident and the volume of traffic that was on the bridge at the time.

It was a horrible tragedy for the families who lost loved ones and for the injured survivors. But was this incident completely unforeseen? Did it shock or surprise senior-level officials at the Minnesota Department of Transportation? Probably not. Because, according to an investigative article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune,

officials already knew that the structural deficiencies in the 35W Bridge that collapsed Aug. 1 were so serious that they considered bolting steel plates to the bridge’s supports to prevent cracking in fatigued metal.

The paper reports that the issue of bridge’s safety was contentious within the agency as engineers debated about what the best way was to fix the problem. Unfortunately, the weak bridge didn’t wait. To make matters worse, just when the agency started inspecting the bridge, it was interrupted right by some unrelated work that was being done on the bridge’s concrete driving surface.

I’m sure the state’s transportation officials are going to have to answer some very tough questions in the following months, as they should. They’ve known that the bridge has been structurally deficient since 1990 and they’ve done nothing about it! I cannot imagine how frustrating and heart-breaking that piece of information must be for the families of those who have lost loved ones and are still looking for their loved ones in the concrete wreckage.

The decaying of our infrastructure isn’t exclusive to Minneapolis or someplace that doesn’t affect us here in Orange County. According to the Orange County Register article, two dozen bridges in Orange County have been flagged as “structurally deficient” by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s national bridge Inventory. There’s more. Sixteen of those bridges have ratings equal to or worse that the Minneapolis bridge.

Before its collapse, the Minneapolis Bridge scored 50 out of 100 on its sufficiency rating, a scale that shows how quickly the bridge needs to be replaced. A score of 80 or lower qualifies a bridge for the federal Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program. According to the Register article, every 10th bridge in Orange County scored 80 or lower.

Are you starting to think about the Orange Country bridges that you frequently cross? I am.

I suggest that anyone who has lost a family member, been injured physically or financially by Minneapolis bridge failure contact reputable Minneapolis attorneys who are experts in personal injury law. If you do not know one, fill out the “Ask An Attorney” form to the right and you’ll be contact by one.

By holding wrongdoers accountable, be they individuals, corporations or governmental agencies for their failures, a message is sent to everyone similarly situated to do their jobs in a timely fashion for the benefit of all of us or face the consequences. Minneapolis certainly has the time and resources to make 35W Bridge a priority this week, to bad it wasn’t a priority two weeks ago.

Minneapolis is paying the price but I’ll bet that governmental agencies responsible for bridge safety all across America are scrabbling around this week and other disasters will be prevented due to Minneapolis’ loss.

Let’s learn from this lesson. Compensate the victims. And hold the wrongdoers accountable.

For more information on this subject matter, please review our section on the Minneapolis Bridge Collapse.

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