Bridging the Gap

Comments 5 by Rebecca Bollwitt

We got home last night and I checked my mail noticing a crisis notification from Metroblogging, regarding Metblogs Minneapolis [LiveBlog][LiveFootage]. We flipped on the news and saw what had transpired that evening.

Photo credit: bridgepix on Flickr

The major bridge collapsed during rush-hour traffic shortly after 6:50 p.m. CT Wednesday, sending more than 50 cars plunging 20 metres into the Mississippi River.

The eight-lane Interstate 35W bridge, a major Minneapolis artery, was in the midst of being repaired, and two lanes in each direction were closed when the bridge buckled and broke into several massive sections that fell into the water below. [CBC]

We had just been talking about Minneapolis at dinner with Henry, who is originally from Vancouver and now lives in Chile. He’s been following my blog for a while and we decided to meet up while he was in town.

A school bus that dangled precariously on the edge of one of the broken concrete slabs was carrying about 60 children, but all inside the bus managed to escape when an adult in the vehicle kicked open the back door, according to witnesses and survivors.

Others reported seeing bystanders diving into the water and repeatedly attempting to help people trapped in their submerged vehicles. [CBC]

Watching the news again this morning they had a family on TV, their mother was missing. Her husband said he didn’t want to release a photo of her because she never liked how she looked in pictures so they wanted to respect that. She is a wife, mother and only child – her father lost her mother earlier this year so he was also pretty distraught. The missing woman’s daughter said you have to tell people how much you love them every day. This almost brought me to tears… then I felt like a jerk, for many reasons.

It seems like it always takes a tragic event to get people to react. This is a sad situation but there are every-day events all around the world that should also affect us this much, as humans. Flooding, famine, hurricanes, earthquakes… …missing women & men, missing children. What the daughter of the missing woman said in the interview struck home – even though it sounds cliche it truly is important to let those you love, know they are loved.

At a press conference this morning the NTSB chairman was saying there at 70,000 bridges in all of the USA that were ranked the same as the bridge that fell: ‘structurally deficient’. There’s a database of structurally deficient bridges by state and highway that you can peruse and get a little paranoid over. I have to say that ‘terrorism’ not being mentioned or blamed in this case is a bit of a relief, but it also make me wonder about structural integrity of some places around Vancouver even.

Photo credit: ore_reserve on Flickr

I’ve had a bit of a series on the Pattullo over on Metblogs [1][2][3], but most of its issues arise from poor driving conditions, excessive speed and a poor layout for a 70-year-old bridge that handles so much traffic. I’m not going on a witch hunt by any means, but tragedies like this make you evaluate lots of things. How safe are our bridges or our buildings [Top10CrashSites]? There’s something to be said for public safety. You can browse the Ministy of Transportation website for most recent upgrades and construction, although this is just helpful in the case of tracking costs and road closures.

If you are in the Twin Cities area, Metblogs is providing great coverage and information including alternate routes for commuters, drivers and traffic pattern changes [TrafficChanges]. Thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the rescue workers.

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5 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. Duane StoreyThursday, August 2nd, 2007 — 11:40am PDT

    I remember being in an engineering class years ago where the prof said he was hired by a consultant to evaluate the safety of the Lion’s Gate Bridge. He said he had asked to physically inspect the cables (since it’s a suspension bridge) but they denied him because, and this was off the books, if he found something wrong the city would be forced to replace them, and it couldn’t afford to at this point.

    Pretty scary.

  2. gusgreeperThursday, August 2nd, 2007 — 1:10pm PDT

    i just kept thinking about the lions gate watching it. man that thing still shakes.
    of course i feel for the victims and their families it is just real hard with some of our bridges here to not think about one going down here or even being an easy target..

  3. fotoeinsThursday, August 2nd, 2007 — 7:48pm PDT

    Good lord.

    I just got back from dinner with Beck & John, and I get a message from my friend Corinne. She asked me if I’d heard the news, and their condo faces the Mississippi … and the I-35 crossing … I’ve begun making inquiries about “roll call” among my friends there …

    Throughout the three years I lived in Minneapolis, I would cross that I-35 bridge about once or twice a week from the East-Bank (University) side back towards West-Bank (downtown) side …

    The question I’d like to ask (again) is: to what magnitude earthquake are the bridges in the Greater Vancouver area rated to hold structurally?

  4. Duane StoreyThursday, August 2nd, 2007 — 10:09pm PDT

    One of the videos we were forced to watch in engineering school was this one:

    It shows what happens when you get an engineer designing something they aren’t qualified to do. This is the collapse of the Tacoma Narrow’s bridge in 1940.

  5. Cheryl Kaye TardifSunday, August 5th, 2007 — 5:06pm PDT

    I came across your blog when searching for Vancouver blogs. I was born in Vancouver and now live in Edmonton.

    This bridge tragedy is absolutely horrible, and reading it made me shiver, especially since I’m a novelist and I’m working on a novel about a woman and her two kids who end up trapped underwater in a car. Isn’t this almost everyone’s fear? I know it’s one of mine.

    I was so thankful to read that the busload of school children did not end up going over. My sympathies to the families of lost loved ones. This is a sad, sad tragedy.

    Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author

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