There is not even an effort to find the bottom of a dirty pocket.
Most forbidden contacts end up there, among the unwanted formations of lint and perhaps a gum-marked penny.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT), however, does not feel the need to fiddle its fingertips with the concealed guilt. In fact, the agency is pinning sketchy relationships to its lapel.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Mn/DOT is doing some improper kissing in broad daylight in front of friends and family. The public showing aired like this: In the aftermath of the collapse of the I-35W bridge, Mn/DOT sued URS Corp. and Progressive Contractors Inc., planting their fingerprints all over the disaster. However, in the time since the blame, the Star Tribune has learned that state transportation officials have awarded more than $55 million in contracts to the two accused. URS’ latest gig with the beleaguered agency is for a traffic simulation project in the Twin Cities metro area, which was authorized just a few days before the state filed suit with what was Mn/DOT’s main consultant on the failed bridge. Now traffic simulation is more like a third cousin to bridge construction, but there are stronger resemblances. The Star Tribune also revealed that URS was paid $2.5 million for predesign work on a bridge over the last two years.
Progressive Contractors Inc. (PCI) was the one that had the old I-35W on an impossible bench press. The contractor had heavy pieces of equipment performing work on the span moments before it went down. Mn/DOT jumped Progressive with a lawsuit, claiming that if it had known the details of the pre-disaster plan it “would have prohibited PCI from loading and staging the material on the bridge as it did.” Mn/DOT should have locked Progressive in a room for the rest of eternity, but instead just issued a short and ineffective time-out in a corner. State records reveal PCI and its subsidiaries have received more than $49 million in state contracts since the I-35W bridge collapse.
It is clear that Minnesotans are still sucking on the bitter pill left by the incident. “The Mn/DOT chief should have gotten the death penalty,” said a scorned commenter to the Star Tribune story. “I forgot that the death penalty is illegal in Minnesota. Well, couldn’t [Gov.] Tim Pawlenty order an exception in the case of the I-35W collapse, where several people were killed?”
Another blogger, who claimed to work for the highway department in 1974, made it more personal: “I learned that consultants generally did lousy work. We paid them to do a job, they didn’t do it, we corrected their mistakes at the taxpayers’ expense.”
To throw off the scent just a little bit here, the National Transportation Safety Board report on the I-35W collapse did not single out URS Corp. or PCI in its final findings. However, I cannot help but stare at this warped thinking. With Mn/DOT sending checks to these outfits, aren’t they essentially covering the costs of the best defense attorneys money can find?
As soon as emergency crews were dispatched to the horrid Minneapolis scene in August two years ago, Mn/DOT should have thrown even the slightest opportunity of a future relationship with URS and Progressive into solitary confinement. To keep blame from creeping in, I can see why the agency wanted to throw the pointed arrow off course, but it is now floating bigger than ever over Mn/DOT’s shameful head. Talk about a wasted effort.