35W Bridge Collapse

If you are online to read this and haven’t found out yet, you’re… well, I don’t even know.

The 35W bridge over the Mississippi collapsed today. I found out via Twitter. It happened at approximately 6:00 pm. There are cars in the river. There was a school bus full of kids on the bridge, but the bus didn’t actually fall in the water. A whole section of bridge dropped straight down and is sitting just above the water. CNN’s running photos that folks downtown have taken from their apartment.

There’s been construction work going on on various parts of 35W near downtown for a long time, but I wasn’t aware that they were actually working on this bridge.

Phone service is spotty.

Star Tribune
Pioneer Press

We’ll update with info as we find it.

See also: our open thread, the Google Map photo of the bridge, and raw footage of the collapse.

UPDATE 8:00 PM: We’re tossing info in the comments, so add it if you’ve got it.

Chuck put up some of KSTP’s live coverage on YouTube.

Hennepin County Medical Center press conference: 16 people arrived at HCMC. They’re under “alert orange” which means personnel in certain areas are being asked to come in. Not everyone. Folks coming in have multiple cuts and bruises and lots of bleeding. Neck braces. Some unconscious.

All 60 kids on the school bus got off the bus. About 10 have gone to the hospital. About 30-40 are still on the scene and need to be picked up by their parents.

There’s a Twins game tonight, so people were heading downtown. An eyewitness report I heard on MPR said southbound traffic was bumper to bumper and moving at about 20mph. That guy watched the bridge fall in front of him and slid backward from the buckling.

Also, there’s severe weather on the way. Lightning already spotted in the area.

severe weather in the area complicates bridge collapse rescue effort

There was maintenance work ongoing, but none of the heavy duty construction going on.

UPDATE 8:20: More from HCMC: Doctor confirms 16 critical, one death due to drowning. No info on the victim. Video on WCCO showing folks on stretchers with lots of blood on them.

This guy was on a boat on the river and saw the bridge come down. This guy lives right by the bridge and felt his whole apartment shake.

UPDATE 8:35: Here’s what that bridge normally looks like. It’s the one in the foreground with the steel girders. The river crossing is near downtown Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota.

Originally uploaded by bridgepix.

Here’s the Mn/DOT news release about the maintenance work. Traffic was already restricted in that area. This single-lane restriction was not in effect at the time of the collapse.

Nighttime bridge overlay work will require Minnesota Department of Transportation crews to temporarily restrict traffic to a single lane on I-35W.

The northbound lanes of I-35W between I-94 and Highway 36 will be restricted to a single lane from 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 31, through 5 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1 and again from 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1, through 5 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 2.

Southbound I-35W will be restricted to a single lane from 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1 until 5 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 2.

The WikiNews article.

UPDATE 9:10: Families looking for people should go to the Metrodome Holiday Inn. Metafilter thread. Terrorism has been ruled out as a cause.

Memorial Blood Centers: Call (651) 332-7000 or 888-GIVE-BLD to inquire about making donations.
Red Cross is taking donations.

This bridge was last inspected in 2004. In 2001, a civil engineering study was commissioned and they determined that while the bridge showed signs of “fatigue detail” it didn’t show any fatigue cracking.

‘CCO says that there are 6 confirmed fatalities, all from drowning.

Press conference upcoming with MPD chief Tim Dolan, Governor Tim Pawlenty, and Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak.

UPDATE 10:00: Still watching WCCO. Don Shelby is explaining that the concrete deck added almost no structural integrity to the bridge. It’s all in the steel truss. Stress testing did show that the bridge showed the most stress when 3 semis drove by side-by-side. Shelby’s hypothesizing that the construction traffic created unusually high stress on the bridge. Video of Shelby talking to a bridge engineer.

Buzz.mn is liveblogging. Max is rounding up local bloggers checking in at MNspeak.

The feds are on their way.

Flickr photos: adamwolf, steve.schmeiser, mordac, Bree R, Tubes., diversey.

Basic facts about the I-35W Mississippi River Crossing.

UPDATE 10:20: NY Times article.

From WCCO’s timeline: “The bridge crushed a train that was traveling under it at the time of the collapse.”

UPDATE 12:30AM: Video of the aftermath at MN Stories.
More video at Tao of David.
Star Tribune is reporting 9 dead, 60 injured, 20 still missing.
Aggregate page at MPR.
Aaron Landry posted Noah Kubrin’s photos.
Twin City Sidewalks has a terrific post putting some perspective on it all.
Elana Centor at BlogHer: “The last time I crossed the bridge was on Monday as I returned from Blogher. Since my exit was closed, I had to go up the road a mile and then backtrack. It seemed like a big pain. Of course without a bridge that extra excursion now seems like a luxury.”
Julio rounds up the internet response for the PiPress.

UPDATE 8:05 AM: E-democracy has a wiki going compiling information. Also, by all accounts, HCMC’s disaster preparedness and response to this incident was stellar. And from their website, the Red Cross Family Inquiry Line is 612-871-7676. People looking for info about family members at HCMC should call 612-873-3400.

59 Comments so far

  1. StoshNick (unregistered) on August 8th, 2007 @ 10:35 am

    To: Doug, Kendall Nix, and all other M.O.P. (Media Owned Party) faithful,

    Ok lets see if we can get all of this out of the way for you folk. The REPUBLICAN Governor of the state, Pawlenty, was sitting in his office the night before putting the final touches on his evil plan, no, his evil “design” to cause the 35W bridge to collapse and kill his fellow Americans.

    Why did he “design” such an evil plan to collapse the bridge? Because he is a REPUBLICAN, and as everybody knows, all REPUBLICANS are really terrorists (excepting that small handful of M.O.P. representatives who just call themselves republicans for political expediency).

    We know REPUBLICANS ARE THE REAL TERRORISTS because we have absolute scientific consensus that the twin towers disaster was actually a PLANNED CONTROLLED DEMOLITION that was “designed” by the EVIL REPUBLICAN DICK CHENEY, and carried out on the orders of the EVIL REPUBLICAN GEORGE BUSH who was SELECTED AND NOT ELECTED, and who LIED ABOUT WMD.

    Ok. I think that covers most of the rage-driven M.O.P. talking points you guys feel the uncontrollable need to perseverate on ad-infinitum …seriously, you’re like iPods stuck on repeat mode….

    Now that we’ve gotten all this out here in the open air where everybody can see it and bask in the glory of its journalistic wisdom, can we move on?

  2. Rob D. (unregistered) on August 8th, 2007 @ 4:20 pm

    Has anyone observed journalists in the area moving beyond descriptions of the collapse? In other words, are any local journalists or other news outlets empowering the public with prescriptions that will help people get involved to help prevent this type of thing from happening in the future?

    My thoughts on this topic are here – http://robdubinski.wordpress.com/

  3. Doug (unregistered) on August 9th, 2007 @ 3:43 pm

    The latest national stories (USA Today, NY Times)on the bridge are focussing on the “flawed gussets.” And perhaps the gussets WERE flawed. But they worked for 40 years and they continue working on other bridges. What was different on the day of the tragedy was more than ONE HUNDRED ADDITIONAL TONS of construction material, yes folks, weighing down an already deteriorating structure. Whose decision was it to place all that extra weight on this rusty, shaky, old bridge? Why have news stories minced around this critical factor?

  4. Chen's World (unregistered) on August 12th, 2007 @ 11:00 pm

    An unfortunate tragedy and all due sympathy/condolences to those touched. Rarely, does a collapse or event on this scale occur without many contributing factors being present at the same time. Unbalanced loads, overweight construction equipment, stop and go traffic oscillations,, rumbling trains, an aging structure and perhaps even a 1967 design oversight or substandard materials sustitution are all suspect contributions to the collapse. Even the air temperature may have played a role. The most insightful comment read thus far is that the bridge may have been on the brink of collapse for some time.

    At the location of initial structural collapse, the truss flopped over on its side, as opposed to the remainder, which fell down and crushed itself (saving many lives in the process). No doubt the NTSB folks have seen this and will tell us (please) exactly which gusset or rivet gave way first in this tradgic play of circumstancs.

  5. Kyra Ann Parker Nelson (unregistered) on August 13th, 2007 @ 11:09 am

    Mean people to build something defective and expect other taxpayers to fix it. Sort of like the tunnel piece collapsing in Boston 2006, and, levees collapsing in NOLA in September 2005, during Hurricane Katrina (lack of proper maintenance since 1970s). Must be the meanest people.

    Unless there is some cement molecular disturber Batman does not know about. Or, those ground shocks from some inner USA foot army/cult got ahead of maintenance projected costs.


  6. Kyra Ann Parker Nelson (unregistered) on August 13th, 2007 @ 11:13 am

    Does anyone else notice the fine print to the right of the white column for comments? In the gray column and at the bottom so you can see it while typing in this screen: “SO LONG AND THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH.”


  7. Erica M (unregistered) on August 13th, 2007 @ 12:39 pm


    It’s the 4th book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. No idea why it’s there, though.

  8. R Staub (unregistered) on August 15th, 2007 @ 3:30 pm

    A a retired civil engineer having been involved in many highway projects, I have been studying the myriad of photos that haave been taken of the collapse. These photos, along with the video of the collapse taken from the south end looking north, have made me believe that the collapse began on the south end when the connection between the concrete column and the steel superstructure gave way. This collapse caused the structure to fall off to the east side.

    When this happened, the connection to the south separated causing that section to fall. At this same time, the video shows that the main structure fell into the river starting at the south. This broke the connection at the pier just north of the river. When that connection broke, the next section nort collapsed directly over the next pier. When that happened it broke the next connection and that section fell onto the railroad. All of the shifting then caused the next northerly southbound section fell.

    Don’t know if all that makes sense, but when I copied a section of the original plan off the MNDOT site and marked it up with the failed sections, it makes perfect sense to me.+

  9. Kim (unregistered) on August 22nd, 2007 @ 2:13 am

    You know, it seems human nature to always want come up with one person or thing to blame when something happens. I don’t care who is at fault. I don’t even care why it fell. No matter what answers we get, it doesn’t change that it happened. Just look at it this way, it could have been worse. We are lucky not all of the lanes were open with normal rush hour and Twins traffic. I work with the Ramsey County Dive Team and arrived down there with in an hour of it falling. As I arrived under the 10th street bridge, I couldn’t say anything. I didn’t know what to say. All I could think of was to take some pictures because I will never see this again. Silly isn’t it? I mean when you think about it. People just died, but I thought to take pictures… The next day as we were diving on it, it was quiet aside from things settling on the parts of the bridge that were still in the air. No one really talked. I took some more pictures in between dives. It took until a couple days ago for me to let other people look at them. It didn’t feel right. I just had to question why I took the picutres or why to show them. I guess human nature wants to help remember and see things. My dad also works for MNDOT and took me to see things from on the 10th street bridge. I understand why it’s closed. You just want to look when you are up there. I hope they don’t open it until the channel is clear. Otherwise there will be accidents. That’s the weird thing about this. You just want to look, you don’t know why, but you want to look.
    I guess all I can say is that I am sorry for those who lost someone they loved. For those who made it off, I am glad that (if you call it luck or god) something helped you make it home to your loved ones. I hope that maybe when you realize that you made it home safe to your loved ones, that it gives you a warm feeling everynight and makes you appreciate small things a little more.

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