The Minnesota Legislature approved a $38-million compensation package for victims of the I-35W bridge collapse on Monday, May 5. Everyone on the bridge when it fell would qualify for up to $400,000 under this bill. Survivors of those who died would be eligible for compensation.
People with more severe injuries and losses could get more money for uncovered medical costs and wage losses from a $12.6-million supplemental fund with amounts to be determined by a panel of lawyers.
Compensation includes children’s community center and survivors
Included in the bill are services to a group of child victims who were on a bus returning to the Waite House, a Minneapolis community center. A total of $1,360,000 will cover administration and social services costs at Waite House.
The package under this bill ensures that victims receive financial help now instead of waiting years for lawsuits to settle, said the bill sponsor, Rep. Ryan Winker. Victims who take the settlement must give up the right to sue the state and other governmental units. The state is not admitting to any liability.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he will sign the bill in the next few days. The Minnesota Supreme Court will appoint a compensation panel by June 30, and survivors must file claims by October 15.
Pawlenty corrects John McCain on causes of the bridge collapse
At a campaign stop in Pennsylvania, John McCain said the I-35W bridge collapsed "because so much money was spent on wasteful, unnecessary pork-barrel projects." Pawlenty left a message with McCain’s staff that the investigation into the collapse is ongoing and early indications suggested the collapse was caused by design flaws and weight distribution.
McCain faced increasing heat for his statement and retreated, saying that he doesn’t know if better spending priorities would have replaced the bridge sooner, but funding would have been available for high-priority projects.
Minnesota Democrats immediately criticized McCain and challenged Pawlenty as a serious candidate for the vice presidential nomination.
Concrete segment delivery begins
Flatiron Constructors, general contractor, said the I-35W bridge is 65-percent complete, and workers may begin hanging concrete segments of the main span as soon as May 15, three months earlier than originally scheduled.
Crews completed 84 of 120 pre-cast segments by May 2 and plan to pour 12 or more segments during the week of May 4. Each segment is marked with a code to indicate its position on the main span.
On Friday, the first segment came out of the casting yard on a flatbed trailer and was delivered to Bohemian Flats, where another crew power-washed it and provided finishing touches. Each 198-ton segment will be loaded on barges and taken to the piers, where a floating crane will lift each segment into place.
Crews wait to move all segments and reconstruct road
Steel plates were placed on 13th Avenue South to protect underground utilities from the concrete segment’s weight. Segments will be strung together with miles of steel cables, called tensioning cables, to form a continuous 500-foot box girder over the Mississippi River. Delivery of the segments will continue everyday for about five weeks from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
As of Monday, May 5, five segments were hauled to Bohemian Flats, requiring 15 minutes for each trip. Crews anticipate that six segments can be delivered each day.
Other work during the week of May 4 include pouring concrete for the bottom and sides of both approach spans, building walls for the Second Street bridges, and bleeding the gas main near 19th Avenue South and Second Street South on the north side of the river. More streets around the bridge will close periodically for construction and hauling. Sidewalks and bike lanes are closed occasionally for curb work, utility relocation and widening I-35W northbound.
Early completion has its price
Flatiron Constructors said the bridge construction is moving so fast that the opening of the bridge may be in mid-September instead of December 24. However, the Minnesota Department of Transportation said more work is anticipated after the bridge is put together and the agency cannot say if the bridge will open early.
The contract between MnDOT and Flatiron includes a $200,000-a-day incentive for each day that the bridge is finished before December 24. The contract also pays an additional $7 million if Flatiron meets the December deadline without asking for additional money to complete construction. MnDOT said that money will come from federal funds.
A bill that the Minnesota Legislature is considering was introduced in response to the I-35W bridge contract. It says a design-build project costing more than $10 million cannot be awarded to a company whose bid is 120 percent more than the lowest competing bid. MnDOT opposes the bill.