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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Politicizing the NTSB

The hyperventilating reaction to the preliminary NTSB report, demonstrates that science is being politicized. How can a report about some hard, cold, steel plates trigger such hot-headed carping? The reason–people who have already made up their minds are not interested in facts.

The NTSB tested the ½" x 6' x 10' steel plates, probably for tensile strength, bending capacity, compression load, shearing force, brittleness, contaminants and more. It found the material in the steel plates was not defective.

However, the NTSB found the 16 plates were undersized for the work they were intended to do in the bridge. The plates should have been 1" thick. The NTSB said this flaw was in the bridge structure from the day it was constructed according to blueprints. It was a design flaw.

These 16 large plates gave way and started the bridge collapse. However, the NTSB said explicitly they did not know what caused the undersized plates to give way. The final report will not be complete for months. If we are sane, we will wait for the final report.

Senate Transportation Chair Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing) said, “I've always said, 'Let's wait for the report.'” That’s good practice, but now that the preliminary report is out, Murphy said “the report is "not worth the paper it's printed on."” So why is the report he was waiting for now worthless? Because “. . . NTSB's initial conclusion was reached with the assistance of an engineering consultant hired by MnDOT.”

Minnesotans deserve much better than this from the Senate Transportation Chair. The same tests on the 16 gusset plates can be conducted repeatedly and the same conclusion will be reached. The material was not defective. The same mathematical formulas can be recalculated numerous times with the same results, showing the plates were undersized. All this data and the calculations will be in the final report for any person to review. So a MnDOT hired engineering consultant who assists NTSB would have every reason to be accurate and forthright. Murphy willfully attacked the integrity of that engineer and the NTSB.

Facts are stubborn things. But Murphy will not let facts get in his way. He must have evidence during the next few months before the legislative recess to attack Molnau and Pawlenty and lock his enormous tax increases on us for transportation as he sees fit. The NTSB report is dismissed as worthless.

He wants his own report. He and the senate will spend $500,000 of our money on their own hired guns to come up with a report before the legislature adjourns. It will be impossible for Murphy to demonstrate his hired report will not be prejudiced and therefore worthless. Yet in Murphy’s mind, his worthless report will trump NTSB’s worthless report.

Murphy has unequivocally demonstrated that he is not qualified to be the Senate Transportation Chair, let alone a senator or even a member of a jury. Senate District 28 would do all of Minnesota a big favor by voting him out of office. Better yet, Murphy should resign.

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