The National Transportation Safety Board came under fire from Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Jim Oberstar over its decision not to hold a public hearing on the possible causes of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse.
The board voted 3-2 along party lines to forego a public hearing, but all board members said partisan politics had nothing to do with this decision. Oberstar, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has disagreed with NTSB chair Mark Rosenker on whether the NTSB rushed to judgment on causes of the collapse. The board pointed to inadequate gusset plates and heavy loads from construction equipment as the reasons for the collapse.
NTSB decisions focus on technical errors
Oberstar, the dissenting board members and a previous NTSB chair all said a public hearing would “speak to the integrity of the board’s investigations.” Rosenker responded that the purpose of a public NTSB public hearing is to hear the testimony of technical experts, not to hear from the public. He also promised to hold a public discussion once the investigation is completed.
However, political critics have said the NTSB decisions on the causes of the bridge collapse will give a positive outcome for Gov. Tim Pawlenty by focusing on a technical fault instead of administrative errors.
Bridge structure rises at a faster pace
Construction crews poured concrete on the approach spans south of the river where they had build falsework and concrete forms during the last few weeks. More falsework construction continues on both sides of the river.
In addition, the former KinderCare building on Second Street S.E. was demolished to allow work on the entrance ramp to University Avenue. At the casting yard, at least one segment of the main span is poured in the heated building. As of this week, 36 out of 120 segments have been completed.
Construction of a 300-ton shuttle lift began this week to help move pre-cast segments from the casting beds to a flatbed trailer that will be moved to the Bohemian Flats area. When the main span erection begins, pre-cast segments will be loaded on a barge at Bohemian Flats and moved up river to the bridge site.
All crews are working day and night shifts seven days a week on both sides of the river and in the casting yard. MnDOT closed 13th Avenue and 14th Avenue South temporarily for truck deliveries and to haul the precast segments to Bohemian Flats at the rate of one segment every two hours.
Miller throws first pitch at baseball home opener
Matthew Miller, the construction worker from Progressive Contractors Inc. who rescued at least eight people after the I-35 Bridge collapsed, was selected to throw the first pitch at the Minnesota Twins baseball opener on March 31.
The Twins organization honored Miller, a student at Bethel University in St. Paul, who received a standing ovation from sports fans and a hug from Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.
During the bridge construction, the Twins urged fans to ride public transportation when possible and ease traffic congestion around downtown Minneapolis.