Plates caused Minn. bridge collapse


An aerial view of the Interstate 35W bridge that collapsed over the Mississippi River is seen in a Friday, Aug. 3, 2007, file photo in Minneapolis.

Morry Gash/The Associated Press, file photo
Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 11:39 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 11:39 a.m.

WASHINGTON - Federal investigators have identified a design flaw as the cause of last year's Interstate 35W Minneapolis bridge collapse that killed 13 people, a congressional official said Tuesday.

The official, who was briefed by the National Transportation Safety Board, said that investigators found a design flaw in the bridge's gusset plates, which are the steel plates that tie steel beams together. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to pre-empt an update being provided later Tuesday by the NTSB chairman, Mark V. Rosenker.

The findings are consistent with what the NTSB said about a week after the Aug. 1 collapse, in which the bridge plunged into the Mississippi River. At the time, the NTSB said it had found issues with the collapsed bridge's gusset plates, but expected a full investigation to take more than a year.

At the time, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters advised states to consider the additional stress placed on bridges during construction projects. An 18-person crew was working on the bridge when it collapsed.

Nearly three months later, she told a gathering in Washington of a "working theory" of a poorly designed gusset plate and a heavy load of construction materials.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers announced plans last month to spend up to $500,000 to hire legal counsel to aid in a legislative inquiry into the collapse.

The bridge was deemed "structurally deficient" by the federal government as far back as 1990.

Late last year, President Bush signed a massive spending bill which included $195 million to help replace the bridge. That came on top of the $178.5 million the federal government has already given Minnesota for the project.

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