Jerome R. Corsi, a Harvard Ph.D., is a WND senior staff reporter. He has authored many books, including No. 1 N.Y. Times best-sellers "The Obama Nation" and "Unfit for Command." Corsi's latest book is "Who Really Killed Kennedy?"More ↓Less ↑
Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis after collapse Wednesday (Courtesy St. Paul Pioneer Press)
Public officials in Minnesota had been warned that increasing truck traffic from international trade was placing an undue stress on the state’s transportation infrastructure, including specific warnings concerning the now-collapsed bridge over the Mississippi on Interstate 35W in Minneapolis.
As WND reported, a Federal Highway Administration study begun in 1998 warned increased NAFTA truck traffic would endanger Minnesota bridges along I-35.
A separate study by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, or MNDOT, published in May 2005 – a “Minnesota Statewide Freight Plan” – identified the need to improve bridge and pavement deficiencies affecting trucks.
Before collapsing, the bridge was not under any restrictions, despite multiple reports of deficiencies. Overweight trucks were permitted to carry loads of up to 136,000 pounds on the interstate.
Estimates are that the collapsed I-35W bridge carried 144,000 vehicles per day, including 4,760 commercial vehicles.
Internal documents from MNDOT and the Dallas-based trade organization NASCO – North America’s Supercorridor Coalition – show the Minnesota agency joined NASCO to help deal with the strain NAFTA and other world trade freight loads were placing on the state’s I-35 infrastructure, including support to repair the Minneapolis bridge.
In a Feb. 15, 2006, letter, Abigail McKenzie, director of the MNDOT Office of Investment Management, wrote to Melvin identifying a list of approximately 100 MNDOT requests for NASCO to assist with finding funding for the years 2007-14, including a request for $3 million to “replace overlay, joints, repair anti-icing, etc.” on the I-35W bridge.
A July 19, 2006, memo written by Brad Larsen, MNDOT federal relations manager, to the MNDOT division directors stressed several benefits of joining NASCO, including the possibility of help to lobby for additional discretionary federal highway funds.
Larson’s letter also pointed out NASCO state membership typically cost $50,000 a year, but NASCO had allowed Oklahoma to join for $25,000, and Larson believed he could get a special exemption allowing Minnesota to join NASCO for only $15,000 a year.
To further induce MNDOT to join, Larsen noted NASCO’s executive director, Tiffany Melvin, had offered MNDOT two positions on the NASCO board of directors.
A Dec. 16, 2006 letter from Melvin to MNDOT acknowledged receiving MNDOT $15,000 fee to become a NASCO member.
The file indicates MNDOT internal support to join NASCO was far from universal.
In a March 7, 2006, memo, Robert Gale, an MNDOT planner, wrote, “I do not see that Mn/DOT has much, if anything, to gain by giving these people $50,000 or $25,000 or anything for that matter.” He continued, “I would say we should save the state’s money for more worthwhile endeavors than this group has to offer.”
There is no record in the file that NASCO was ever able to assist MNDOT with the $3 million request to repair the I-35W bridge.
International trade dramatically increases traffic
Truck traffic carries the vast majority of international trade. According to the FHWA, in 2002, trucks carried 797 million tons of international shipments, valued at approximately $1.2 trillion. By 2035, trucks are projected to carry 2.1 billion tons of international freight, valued at approximately $6.2 trillion.