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Corruption Chronicles

Negligent Firms Get State Contracts

In a baffling move, Minnesota officials have awarded multi million-dollar contracts to a pair of companies the state accuses of negligence that caused a fatal bridge collapse in 2007.

Amid a storm of lawsuits related to the disaster, the engineering firm and paving company have never the less scored lucrative state deals worth a combined $50 million. The firms (engineering consultant URS Corp. and paving company Progressive Contractors Inc.) were largely blamed for the collapse of the Interstate 35W Bridge that killed 13 people and injured 145.

The rush-hour catastrophe made worldwide headlines as surreal images of the eight-lane steel bridge plummeting into the Mississippi River were repeatedly broadcast and viewed en masse on the internet. A federal investigation subsequently determined that a design flaw involving steel plates caused the bridge to buckle. 

The firms recently awarded lucrative contracts were heavily involved in the design and have been sued by the state. In fact, Minnesota is still trying to recover nearly $40 million that it has dished out to settle claims with the injured and relatives of the 13 who died. 

In its lawsuit against the engineering company, the state claims it “violated the applicable engineering standard of care" and failed to warn the state "of the substantially compromised and urgent hazardous condition of the bridge." This may logically lead taxpayers to question a new contract with the defendant.

One local lawmaker involved in the victims’ compensation fund points out that it looks “awfully odd” to the public that the state is giving new business to companies its simultaneously suing for doing a "lousy job."


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