44 Procurement Law. 6 (2008-2009)
Lessons Learned from the Collapse and Rebuilding of the I-35W Bridge: Would the Model Code for Public Infrastructure Procurement Have Made a Difference

handle is hein.journals/procurlw44 and id is 34 raw text is: 

Lessons Learned from the Collapse and Rebuilding

of the 1-35W Bridge: Would the Model Code for

Public Infrastructure Procurement Have Made a



Jeff H. Eckland              Dave S. Laidig

Years from now, we could drive on new roads, depend on safe
bridges and stronger levees, and connect our cities with high-
speed rail .... That's what we must do to make sure that
America runs on a strong, fair, and efficient foundation.
                                      -Barack Obama
                                         June 26, 2007
                               Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The federal investigation [into the 1-35W bridge collapse] is noth-
ing more than a political smokescreen for politicians to dodge and
deny the issue of crumbling infrastructure in America.
                                    -James Schwebel
                                Minneapolis StarTribune
                                       March 28, 2008

Challenging times require creative and collaborative ac-
tion. On August 1, 2007, the State of Minnesota faced one
of its most devastating public disasters with the collapse of

Jeff H. Eckland is a partner, and Dave S. Laidig is an associate, in the
law firm of Eckland & Blando LLP in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mark
J. Blando and Timothv M. Connelly of Eckland & Blando also con-
tributed to this article.
* Top Sheet is used in construction and other fields to denote a
condensed overview of essential information about a bid or project.
The Construction Division's Top Sheet articles are similarly crafted to
be succinct examinations of key aspects of a case, law, or other issue.

6     The Procurement Lawyer          Winter 2009

the 1-35W highway bridge: 13 people died and more than
145 were injured as a result of the collapse. The disaster
presented a unique confluence of economic necessity to
rebuild the lost bridge with the desire to demonstrate Min-
nesota's resilience. Following the collapse, Governor Tim
Pawlenty announced the replacement structure would be
completed by December 2008. The state immediately
commenced work, responding to victims, cleaning up the
disaster site, assisting with various investigations, and solic-
iting proposals. The actual award of a contract for the new
bridge proved more difficult.
   Approximately one year after the bridge collapse, Min-
nesotans began driving over one of the most modem con-
crete-sparmed bridges in the nation. There is no scarcity of
pundits who claim that the collapse of Minnesota's 1-35W
bridge is symptomatic of a greater crisis regarding the deteri-
orating condition of our nation's infrastructure. Few, how-
ever, have offered a way to move forward. And fewer still
have examined Minnesota's rebuilding experience for clues
about how to deal most effectively with our larger national
problem. Recently, the National Transportation Safety
Board (NTSB) concluded that the 1-35W bridge collapse
was largely due to improperly designed gusset plates, but the
question for the future remains: Has government done all
that it can to ensure that public infrastructure procurement
is conducted effectively?

Minnesota's Rebuilding Experience
The new 1-35W bridge has attracted much acclaim, largely
because of the elegance of its concrete spans and the appar-
ent ease with which it was erected. Its very success, though,
points to what has become a major issue in its rebuilding.
Whether or not the Minnesota Department of Transporta-
tion (MnDOT) ever had a predisposition for a concrete
over a steel design, the most vitriolic debate has centered
on the fact that the state's solicitation generated only one
bid with a concrete design. As it turned out, that concrete
design resulted in the winning bid, even though it present-
ed the highest cost as well as the longest construction
schedule. Adding insult to injury, the cost increased sub-

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