Ever since the immediate aftermath of the 35W bridge collapse, a parade of lefty pundits lined up to blame the disaster on lack of state aid to local govenrments, closed libraries, and the war in Iraq for all I remember.
The response – let’s wait until actual engineers investigate this thing.
Well, they’re still investigating. But according to federal transportation officials, Bthere’s a working theory, and that theory
is that Nick Coleman suffered a stroke has, has, so far, nothing to do with money:
The top federal transportation official said that investigators have a “working theory” of why the 35W bridge collapsed in August: a poorly designed metal component called a gusset plate and excessive weight on the bridge that day.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters’ comments Thursday mirrored statements she made in August, a week after the collapse, and like her previous comments immediately led to controversy. The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the collapse, has said a formal finding will not be available for at least a year.
Everyone knows this. But knowing that the investigators have narrowed things down to a short list of theories does help…
…in dealing with this kind of thing:
Sen. Steve Murphy, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said Peters told a gathering Thursday in Washington, D.C., that he attended that “a finding of fault was not going to be lack of inspection or lack of maintenance” by state officials.
“I think it taints the findings,” he said.
No, Senator Murphy. It taints the spin you and your party want to bring to the upcoming election.
It is all politics to the likes of Murphy.
But a spokesman for Peters said Murphy’s account of her comments was inaccurate.
“What she said is, look, I’m not going to prejudge what the NTSB is going to find, but the working theory that they are operating on, and this has been in the news for about two months now, is that there was a combination of a gusset plate and too much weight placed on a certain part of the bridge,” spokesman Brian Turmail said.
“Certainly, the NTSB would want to look into whether lack of maintenance was a factor in the collapse of the bridge,” he said. But Turmail added that “the working theory at the NTSB is that it is not a lack of inspections, but a design flaw and weight.”
Doesn’t seem all that controversial, does it?
Unless you’re someone for whom the bridge collapse was nothing but political red meat in the first place:
Later Thursday, Rep. Ron Erhardt, R-Edina, confirmed Murphy’s account. “Murphy was sitting behind me and I turned to him and said, ‘What is this?’” Erhardt said. “To hear that it wasn’t maintenance or inspection, I thought, ‘What the hell?’ I remembered early reports about the gussets and I thought, what is that but lack of maintenance?”
I have to sit still for a minute.
I need to breathe slowly.
Rep. Erhardt: If the gusset plates were (as the “working theory” postulates) poorly designed – meaning “not designed to be capable of relieving the stress on the joints that they needed to under the circumstances” – then their maintenance would (under my understanding of the theory) be irrelevant.
If you design a gusset plate (and its attendant bolts and welds, and its interaction with the rest of the structure) to transfer fifty tons of weight from girder A to arch B, and there’s really eighty tons being transferred, it wouldn’t matter if the plate were brand new out of the box; there’d be a problem.
A design problem.
Not a maintenance problem.
The Strib piece – by Patricia Lopez – notes the real importance of this theory. Oh, and it has nothing to do with the bridge falling over:
A design flaw would give administration critics less of an opening to hold current officials at the Minnesota Department of Transportation or Gov. Tim Pawlenty responsible.
And – oh, yeah, just like all of us people who care about science and stuff have been saying all along – it’s not over yet:
“It’s true, yeah, we are looking at the design issues and the gusset plates and the weight of the construction materials and equipment on the bridge,” NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said. “We’re also looking at the maintenance and repair history. We’re looking at the de-icing fluids — any role they may have played. We basically haven’t ruled anything out yet.”
But you can smell the fear, can’t you?
It’s interesting; for all the yapping the left does about the (caricaturish, cartoon-y parts of the) right’s flailing about with non-issues like evolution and creationism, it’s amazing the contempt the (caricaturish, cartoon-y parts of the) left has for science.