Minnesota legislators are considering a proposal to create a fund that compensates survivors and victims’ families of the I-35W bridge collapse. A state senator created the proposal that – with bipartisan help and assistance from the Pawlenty administration – will attempt to pay victims for losses not covered by insurance or other sources. The fund would limit awards to no more than $400,000 per person.
Legislators consider two proposals to help survivors
This proposal differs from another proposal under consideration that was created similar to a September 11 compensation fund in which no caps apply.
Some legislators agree that a $1-million cap for all survivors and victims’ families isn’t enough and, according to the law, the state’s liability is $300,000 per person.
Survivors who accept this compensation plan also would give up their right to sue the state. The fund would have to be $5.2 million to cover families of the 13 people who died.
Survivors and victims’ families of the I-35W bridge collapse have filed notices to sue the state. As of Friday, January 18, 73 injured survivors and six families of victims killed filed formal notice that they intend to sue.
In addition, three insurance companies and the owner of the school bus that fell also filed notices. A consortium of 20 law firms representing 67 victims argued that because the bridge was declared structurally deficient in 1990, MnDOT had a much higher responsibility to all Minnesotans to look at everything relating to the bridge and look at it again.
Legislators are sponsoring bills to create a state fund capping the state’s liability at $1 million for everyone who files a claim; people who claim money from this special fund give up rights to sue the state.
Survivors speak out
Two survivors, who have spoken about their experiences during the bridge collapse, said they do not accept the NTSB conclusion that gusset plates were a major cause of the bridge collapse. However, they will reserve other judgments until a final report is released later this year.
Another state senator asked the full Senate to withdraw from its independent investigation on the cause of the bridge collapse, saying that it was redundant and wasteful after an interim report from the NTSB and another investigation conducted for Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The Senate and House had agreed jointly to pay $250,000 each.
When the legislative session starts in February, the major topics will be transportation funding and the funds to help bridge survivors and victims’ families.
Construction continues in the deep freeze
In freezing weather since Thursday, January 17, Flatiron-Manson crews poured concrete at footings for Piers 2, 3 and 4 north of the Mississippi River. A stem wall is completed at Abutment 1 for crews to pour concrete at the same time.
Truckloads of construction materials, including 40-foot-long steel pipes, crane mats, I-beams, and wide-flange beams continue to arrive daily on both sides of the construction site. These materials will be used to build the temporary scaffolding, also known as falsework, to support the forms for the superstructure.
At the northern end of the site, crews continue to drill shafts for the foundations at Abutment 5. All shafts will be drilled by the end of January. Work will continue day and night, seven days a week, until all piers are completed in March. Night work includes chipping and preparing piles, forming footings and placing rebar.
More public information
On January 22, MnDOT, Flatiron Constructors and Figg Engineering conducted an open house a few blocks from the construction site to provide updates on the project and answer questions. Photographs of the construction, signs explaining the construction and a detailed drawing of the finished bridge were on display. Two additional open houses will take place next week at the IDS Crystal Court in downtown Minneapolis.