U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters yesterday announced that $5 million in federal relief will be available to Minnesota to repair the I-35 bridge that collapsed Wednesdsay night. The Secretary is in Minneapolis touring the bridge site, viewing the damage, and meeting with Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Senator Norm Coleman, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Congressman Keith Ellison, and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.
"We are going to make sure that last night's damage and debris soon become a thing of the past. We will rebuild this bridge and repair this horrible hole in the heart of this community," Secretary Peters said.
The secretary said the $5 million "will give crews the support they need to begin restoring traffic flow, clearing debris, setting up detours, and making repairs." She pledged that the federal government will continue to be a close partner with the state to do everything possible to get the bridge up and running as soon as possible, and that any future requests for additional funds will be quickly evaluated and processed.
Peters also called on all states to immediately inspect any steel deck truss bridges similar to the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis.
"Even though we don't know what caused this collapse, we want states to immediately and thoroughly examine all similar spans out of an abundance of caution," Peters said.
According to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) data, there are 756 of the relatively unique steel deck truss bridges in the United States.
The FHWA issued the guidance to all state transportation agencies and bridge owners, strongly advising them to conduct an inspection or, at minimum, review inspection reports to determine if further action is needed.
Peters also has requested the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General to conduct a rigorous assessment of the National Bridge Inspection Program.
“What happened in Minnesota is simply unacceptable. We must have a top-to-bottom review of the bridge inspection program to make sure that everything is being done to keep this kind of tragedy from occurring again,” Peters said.
The Secretary called for the Inspector General to determine if the current federal program delivers the highest level of bridge safety. And, if needed, the Inspector General will make recommendations for future changes to the program.