MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It was a moment that defined Minnesota history. In August of 2007, the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed during rush hour, killing 13 people and leaving 145 others hurt.

“That painful day in Minnesota brings back a lot of memories of the pain that was inflicted on a lot of families who lost loved ones, had serious injuries and also people who had trauma and PTSD from the experience,” Minnesota Commissioner of Transportation Margaret Anderson Kelliher said.

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According to MnDOT, 35% of state bridges are more than 50 years old. The 2020 bridge report indicated more than 9,500 bridges were identified as deficient and more than 700 identified in poor condition.

Kelliher says she expects the state to receive $4.8 billion over the next five years for road and bridge projects from the federal infrastructure bill.

“Having the federal dollars, having the dollars come in, and really being able to prioritize them particularly on the bridge infrastructure the aging bridge bubble is important,” Kelliher said.

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Kelliher says the state has come a long way since the Interstate 35W collapse. MnDOT now uses drones to inspect bridges and gather detailed images from below and above.

“Minnesota and MnDOT became a leader in best in class bridge inspection. That includes the people who inspect the bridge, the protocol and program, and it also includes technology like drones,” Kelliher said.

In a state with more than 20,000 bridges, the federal investment is something Keliher says is needed and overdue.

“Across the country there needs to be good investment and we are excited about being able to partner and help everyone learn from our experience and continue to improve our bridges here in Minnesota,” Kelliher said.

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Last week, Gov. Tim Walz announced a proposed $2.7 billion infrastructure and bonding bill, including $120 million for bridge repairs. The proposal will require support from both Republicans and Democrats in the upcoming session.

Kirsten Mitchell