Crews Trying To Figure Out Why Bridge Broke

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis city crews have been working around the clock trying to figure out what caused cables to snap on the Sabo Pedestrian Bridge.

The Hiawatha Light Rail is now allowed to go under the bridge, but traffic is still blocked in the area. It has become a priority for city workers and engineers to figure out what caused cables to fray and break loose from the bridge.

At the moment, there are not many theories, but there are lots of rumors about what may have forced the closure of the 5-year-old bridge.

The problem is obvious: the cable once connected to the top of the pylon somehow came loose. Now crews have begun the long and tedious process of determining exactly why it happened.

Mark Emery is one of many people who live in Minneapolis who wonder if what they saw on the bridge a week ago is connected to the problem.

Emery says he was riding with a friend when he noticed a police cruiser on the pedestrian bridge.

“A cop car came across with his lights going east to west. But then a HCMC ambulance also came across also going east to west, and then right away in my head — I have mechanical engineering in my background — I said, ‘I’ve ridden across that bridge a thousand times and I’ve never seen a gross vehicle weight sign,’” Emery said.

A spokesperson for the City of Minneapolis said they are aware of the emergency call that sent medics, fire and police to the bridge. But the bridge, the city says, is designed to handle the weight of emergency vehicles.

It can handle up to 20 tons, and right now investigators do not believe that emergency run played a role in the forced closure of the bridge.

WCCO obtained a picture from a city worker that shows the bridge piece the cable was connected to. The city confirmed the piece of the bridge is where the problem began; they just don’t know how it failed.

Right now, light rail is the only traffic allowed under the bridge until they determine it’s safe for all traffic.

“They are taking the right safety precautions, I think,” Emery said.

The City of Minneapolis has hired an independent engineering firm to figure out what went wrong. They, as well as city workers, are using the space below the bridge as a staging area, so no one is willing to say how long it will be before Hiawatha Avenue is open to traffic.

More from Reg Chapman
  • AJ

    Crews Trying To Figure Out Why Bridge Broke = 15 guys standing around scratching their heads. Pretty much the same drill on any mndot highway project!!!

    • Brian

      Exactly. Let’s spend time and money paying these forensic engineers to solve a problem that really doesn’t matter. Meanwhile, traffic on Hiawatha is forced onto other routes. Nice work.

    • Tired of stupid people

      what an idiot you are AJ. Pull your lip over your head and swallow

  • Al

    I am sure when the Stillwater Bridge falls into the St. Croix they will be able to point to our gutless politicians and the Sierra Club.

  • kevin

    Good old Stillwater bridge, may not be pretty enough, but they knew how to build a bridge back then. These architectural artists today can’t even build a bicycle bridge that will hold up for ten years and we pay millions for it. Arrogance has taken the place of intellect in America and it’s NO substitute. Pretty soon, before you cross the bridge, they’ll make you stop and sign a waver first.

    • fred

      lol…..sad but true….I remember when they built the Lafayette bridge in the mid 60`s….40 some years later it`s being replaced because it is unsafe…seems kind of third world to me

      • Debbie

        I guess a pretty bridge is better than a functional one, wow.

  • Wayne

    Another stupid bridge design. Where is the warranty from the builders? I bet the city spent gobs of money on overtime to have guys stand out there and ponder ” what happened” Quit trying to beautify everything. Build it to last. And quit importing steel from China. You get what you pay for. Think about it. You get what you pay for.

    • Frank the Tank

      C’mon Wayne. Sure the bridge is a pile of junk, but it looks so cool! Isn’t that worth something?

    • _W_

      I think the right word in this situation is ‘liability’, not ‘warranty’. In most situations like this the architectural design firm probably carries liability for the design; the general contractor and sub-contractors (e.g. cable installation contractor) carries liability for the construction; suppliers and testing agencies who provided concrete, structural parts and so forth carry liability for the things that were used in the bridge construction; the City who owns and maintains the bridge, carries liability under any pre-existing conditions when they agreed to when they accepted the bridge, along with any maintenance faults. Not to mention other causal factors such acts of God, stupidity, vandalism or sabotage.

  • Very disappointed

    This is what happens when a grossly over engineered solution is put in place. The $5 million bridge should have been a simpler (and more reliable) $500k design instead. Sadly, our Minnesotan inferiority complex strikes again, so we over spend, over engineer, and now because we have this really complicated thing with a really complicated problem, wait and wait for an answer.

  • John

    Can someone point me to a news report & discussion with accurate technical info? I’ve seen one or two brief closeup pics on TV of cable ends & connector pieces, that are apparently where a structural failure occurred, yet reporters are still jabbering nonsense like the above about cables that “fray” and break. If the piece I saw was an integral section broken out of the top of the main support post I’m guessing the final conclusion will point to a design so flawed that this thing will have to come down.

    • Uncle Chico Rico

      You must be another bullchitting repoorter with all your speculation
      just stain’ the obvious ;-)

  • Nancy

    Why is it safe for the train to go under the bridge but not cars?

    Clearly, stupidity reigns supreme.

    LRT is a financial disaster.

    • Marcos

      The train doesn’t go under the bridge, it runs alongside it.

      Also, the LRT is a hugely successful transit line that has exceeded all expectations.

      • Ines Beag

        It does go under, but they put up scaffolding under that part of the bridge.

      • AJ

        “hugely successful” By who’s yardstick? Care to back that up with a fact or two? In my book losing money and needing taxpayer $$ is not a “success”

      • Bart


        Every passenger is subsidized by the taxpayers. That’s not successful, that’s a long term fiscal nightmare.

  • Ace

    This whole mess happened because a bunch of spandex clad bicyclists demanded a bridge so they wouldn’t have to wait for a green light to cross Hiawatha and the idiots who cater to their every whim!

    • Richard in Minneapolis

      If they didn’t have this bridge you’d be the first one complaining about having to wait at a stupid light for a bunch of spandex clad bicyclists.

      Depending on what timeframe one uses for amortization this bridge costs between 10 cents and $1.00 per person per year. For all the benefits, including never having to worry about an eight year old getting his brains splattered all over the payment this bridge is a bargain.

      • AJ

        Another “expert” spewing “facts” Back it up or shut it up!!!

  • ipmutt

    Now let’s get bike registration and local property taxes adjusted to pay for this. Then lets get a new mayor and city coulcil to prevent it from happening again. In the hunt for a good national ranking for worthless stuff like green ratings and livablility rankings, this dumb group has spend the city into a hole. Vote these dorks out.

    • Richard in Minneapolis

      And don’t forget the motorists who don’t have to wait for a red light every time a bicyclist or a pedestrian wants to cross Hiawatha.

    • Brett

      Good comment, but it may be TOO LATE for that.

  • Jack Mehof

    I read this bridge cost $2.9 million in federal funding and Hennepin County provided additional funding to total $5.1 million for the final project. I guess they were not happy spending $50,000 a pop for drinking fountains in Minneapolis. The same inspectors that inspected the 35W bridge for 30+ years before its big drop are now scratching their butts and collecting over time from taxpayers to provide more incompatent input. I hope the money they overspent on the Lowry ave bridge will make it last at least 6 years before it falls down.

    • Brett

      I doubt it. Today, these overpaid engineers and architects prefer “form” over *function*. Every bridge built now has to be some stupid “work of art”, and OVERPRICED to boot. You would think that with today’s technology, materials, and computers, we could put up bridges cheaper, faster, and built better……but NOOooooo.

  • Brett

    Oh SURE, blame the COPS — for EVERYTHING.

  • Ines Beag

    If the bridge was rated to handle 20 tons, then next time they inspected it get a semi, flat bed, and load it up with the mayor, council members(city and county), designers, consultants, and some lead weights and drive over it a few times.

  • inesbeag

    All the people that live on Longfellow Ave between 26th and 28th streets are getting tired of not being able to get out of they alley and Longfellow, because of the detour. People going east or west on either of theses streets do not know driving etiquette, i.e do not block intersections or alleys. I

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