By MARTIGA LOHN
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — An engineering company linked to a fatal 2007 bridge collapse in Minnesota is seeking to design a major bridge crossing on the state’s border with Wisconsin.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation said Wednesday that San Francisco-based URS Corp. is among the bidders to design a $571 million to $676 million span crossing the St. Croix River east of the Twin Cities. URS is also seeking a contract to review the bridge’s design if another firm is selected to design the structure.
As a candidate in 2010, Gov. Mark Dayton said the state should sever ties with URS because it failed to spot the critical design flaw in the Interstate 35W bridge that collapsed. A federal probe attributed the collapse to connector plates deemed too thin to support the bridge’s weight.
Dayton also said then that he would attempt to exclude the company from state work through an executive order if elected and go to court to uphold any URS disqualification. To date, he hasn’t taken executive action.
“If a contractor fails to perform, it should not get another contract,” Dayton said in August 2010.
Dayton’s spokeswoman, Katharine Tinucci, said the governor has concerns about URS, but that no actions have been taken at this point to stop URS from bidding on state contracts.
URS is not on a list of vendors barred from doing state work, so officials have said they can’t legally deny it the chance to bid for public projects.
Transportation Department spokesman Kevin Gutknecht said the St. Croix bridge bidders will be evaluated on factors including technical proficiency, management skills and knowledge of the project. The Minnesota and Wisconsin transportation departments are working together to make a selection later this month.
In a letter last week to Dayton, Tom Bader, the company’s vice president and office manager in Minneapolis, wrote that URS “did not design or build the I-35W bridge” and that “there were no findings of fault against us.” He wrote that the company’s chairman and CEO would be willing to travel to Minnesota and meet with Dayton to address concerns he might have.
Bader’s letter was in response to concerns raised about URS bidding on another Twin Cities project, a light rail transit line proposed to connect Minneapolis with its southwestern suburbs. That project is being shepherded by the Metropolitan Council.
In 2010, URS paid $52.4 million to settle lawsuits related to the rush-hour collapse, which killed 13 and injured 145 more. URS admitted no fault but said the settlement would keep it from protracted litigation. URS was under contract to study the bridge before it fell.
A federal probe attributed the collapse to an original design flaw from the 1960s.
Also bidding on a contract to review the St. Croix bridge design is Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., the Pasadena, Calif.-based company that acquired the firm that designed the collapsed bridge.
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