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Minn. bill maps path to dispose of I-35W bridge parts

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota transportation officials would have to follow specific instructions from state lawmakers when disposing of parts from the collapsed Interstate 35W bridge, under a bill introduced Monday.

The bill would create a disposal priority list. Internal agency discussions about the steel remnants from 2007 bridge collapse began when the final litigation ended last fall.

The bill would give the Minnesota Historical Society first chance to claim pieces free of charge. From there, parts would go to survivors and others most directly affected by the collapse; transportation safety agencies; and college engineering programs.

Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said MnDOT was seeking authorization for the parts giveaway because the state usually sells off surplus assets.

“People want to commemorate things. It’s like a memorial of some kind,” Winkler said.

In this case, it’s crumpled steel beams from the highway bridge that collapsed during rush hour that August, killing 13 people and injuring 145. Investigators mostly blamed an original design flaw but said there were contributing factors.

Agency officials said they want to be sensitive and safe when getting rid of the components, which now are in a massive storage shed near the Twin Cities. The bill would give the state protection from any liability because of things such as effects of lead-based paint.

For now, the period for disposal is open-ended but Winkler envisions it happening over the course of a year or two. Whatever is left could be sold for scrap or melted down. Any proceeds from sales would go into the general treasury.

Winkler was co-sponsor of the law that created a victim compensation fund in the year after the collapse. Sen. Ron Latz, the other half of that effort, will sponsor the Senate version of the remnants bill.

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