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Gov. Pawlenty can't dodge ownership in bridge collapse

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Six years ago independent engineers at the University of Minnesota warned that the I-35 bridge had “evidence of fatigue on the main truss and floor trusses and said the bridge might collapse if part of the truss gave way under the eight-lane freeway.”

In a brazen CYA move last night, Gov. Pawlenty (Bush Republican) said 2005 and  2006 bridge studies indicated there were "no structural deficits" in the I-35 bridge.

But today the president's spokesperson said the report actually said there were structural deficits.  A 2005 federal inspection rated the bridge 50 on a scale of 120 for structural stability, and the Bush administration said it was up to state officials to take corrective action.

The Minnesota Legislature attempted to take corrective action by passing transportation funding bills, but Pawlenty vetoed them.

In a followup CYA move Thursday morning, after being cast aside by Team Bush like a used-up trollup, Gov. Tim  Pawlenty orders inspection of all state bridges. Sure, make it look as if you suddenly care about public safety.  A new round of inspections (by more political appointees or privatized and outsourced, one should presume) does not deflect the fact that four people are reported dead (so far), the bodies of passengers in 20 cars are now resting in the Mississippi or trapped beneath twisted metal, and 79 are injured from yesterday’s collapse.

How do you like them apples, Pawlenty? You pledged to follow the Bush-Cheney playbook to a "T" – forsaking Minnesotans’ interest -- and now you are left holding the bag all on your own. Every Minnesotan knows (or should be aware) that the MNDOT, the League of Minnesota Cities, bi-partisan legislative and citizens groups and the state's largest businesses have been begging for transportation funding, including attention to problem bridges, for years. Citizens even passed a constitutional amendment last fall because of your stubborn refusal to deal with the transportation budget crisis.  

Pawlenty twice vetoed a bi-partisan bill to increase the gas tax to pay for the state’s transportation infrastructure needs and took no steps to heed numerous warnings. Failure.

"I'd stand with President Bush if his approval rating was 2 percent. I won't abandon my leader just because times are tough." Gov. Tim Pawlenty, October 20, 2005

Seventy-seven percent of Minnesotans are willing to pay higher taxes or user fees to fund highway and transit improvements to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety. This highlights Minnesota’s significant and growing transportation problem and Minnesotans’ desire to do something about it.”Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Report, January 2006  

“In cities across Minnesota, transportation maintenance and improvement costs are contributing to increasing property taxes. And a lack of state funding has delayed critical improvement projects and repairs needed for both safety and economic vitality. As time passes, the needs and the project costs increase.League of Minnesota Cities

Support for Minnesota's Transportation Amendment Reaches Record Level

"Deteriorating roads and bridges, unsafe highways and intersections and limited transit options for residents in Minnesota are all serious threats to our quality of life. This amendment will provide millions of dollars every year for local governments statewide to improve critical transportation projects in their communities," said Ken Brown, Olmsted County commissioner and supporter of MBRT. Olmsted County is one of 64 counties, along with the League of Minnesota Cities, that supports the amendment. -- Minnesota Transportation Alliance

Minnesotans vote 'yes' on transportation amendment

November 8, 2006 Minneapolis — (AP) Minnesota voters locked state government into spending more money on roads and public transit, approving an amendment to the state constitution that's expected to funnel an extra $300 million a year into transportation projects.

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Kathlyn Stone is a Minnesota-based writer covering science and medicine, health care and related policies.ï She publishes www.fleshandstone.net, a health and science news site.
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