Bridge over Mississippi River collapses in Minneapolis

The I-35W bridge across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed today. City officials have declared a state of emergency.

More details as they come from CNN here.

UPDATE BY BRENDAN, 8:21 PM EDT: The bridge collapsed into the river at around 7:05 PM EDT (that’s 6:05 local time, during rush hour, reportedly in bumper-to-bumper traffic). It’s an eight-lane bridge, but according to an eyewitness interviewed by CNN-TV, only one lane was open in each direction because the bridge was under construction.

Still, the collapse sent many cars into the river. A school bus full of children was reportedly on the bridge, but did not fall into the river, though it is believed that some children were injured. Drudge says local media are reporting 20-30 injuries but no deaths, though it’s very early for such assessments.

In case anyone is confused (I certainly was), the “W” in I-35W does not mean “westbound”; the “W” is part of the actual name of the highway. As explained by the I-35W Wikipedia page, “I-35 splits into two branch routes, I-35W and I-35E at Burnsville. I-35W runs north for 39 miles (63 km), carrying its own separate sequence of exit numbers. It runs through Minneapolis before rejoining with I-35E to reform I-35 in Columbus.” I-35W actually has northbound and southbound lanes, both of which fell into the river.

The now-collapsed bridge also has its own Wikipedia page. Here is a Google Maps view of the bridge. And here’s what it looks like now:

The intact bridge above and to the right of the collapsed bridge in the picture is the Cedar Avenue Bridge; it is not part of the freeway.

The Star-Tribune has much more; here are links to the main story and the photo gallery.

UPDATE, 8:59 PM EDT: Fox News says at least 3 people have died.

UPDATE, 9:12 PM EDT: I just noticed I now can’t access either the Star-Tribune article or photo gallery, because I’m not a “member” of their site. They were working before, but aren’t now. I just wrote them a nasty feedback e-mail, titled “Disable registration requirement during crisis!”:

Are you a newspaper or a profit engine? For the love of all that is holy in journalism, temporarily disable your registration requirement, at least for those articles relating to the bridge collapse. Otherwise you are rendering yourselves completely irrelevant to the coverage of this national breaking-news story in your own city. What a disgrace.

UPDATE, 9:17 PM EDT: And the thunder rolls. Though luckily, it appears the heaviest weather will stay just northeast of downtown.

UPDATE, 9:28 PM EDT: I just wrote an e-mail to former Star-Tribune columnist James Lileks, now the editor of the S-T‘s, reading in part:

I’m e-mailing because I was wondering if you could shed any light on the Star-Tribune‘s registration policy vis a vis the bridge collapse. Less than an hour ago, I was able to view the photo gallery and article about the bridge collapse, even as a non-“member” of the Star-Tribune site. Now, when I click the links that were working previously, I see a registration wall, asking me to become a member. … [B]ecause I was initially able to access the relevant articles but now suddenly can’t, I’m wondering whether they actually expanded the registration wall to specifically cover these articles, because they knew they’d be in high demand? If so, that would be REALLY disgraceful. But I don’t want to jump to conclusions; maybe non-member browsers are always allowed a certain number of freebie pageviews before the “wall” kicks in, or something? Anyway, I was just wondering if you could shed any light on the situation, as an insider who has nevertheless been willing to criticize the Star-Tribune in the past, when they deserved it.

Naturally, Lileks’s has no registration wall.

UPDATE, 9:39 PM EDT: Metroblogging Minneapolis has more.

UPDATE, 10:23 PM EDT: Six dead, according to

FINAL UPDATE, 1:07 AM EDT: The death toll is now at 7. May they rest in peace.

A couple more photos, before I go to bed, from via

10 Responses to “Bridge over Mississippi River collapses in Minneapolis”

  1. Peter Evans says:

    Bloody hell. That was a close one for those children, a few seconds one way and it’d be a terrible disaster. Hoping somehow there are no deaths, but it would surprise me if there weren’t. Thoughts and prayers with the victims, families and rescue workers.

  2. bearing says:

    Note that this is 6:05 p.m. locally. This happened in full rush hour.

    I drive this bridge every day. It is just south of the University of Minnesota.

    Here are some photos of the intact bridge.

  3. Mad Max, Esquire says:

    Reports are saying that as many as 100 vehicles could have been on the bridge when it went down. Cars that stayed on the spans fell 65 feet. I would find it hard to believe people haven’t died in this mess.

  4. Mad Max, Esquire says:

    This photo gives you some idea how far the span fell…;_ylt=AlHcmddzGIKSYO3lvC6pC25H2ocA

    …Looks pretty damn far from this angle.

  5. bearing says:

    Yes, it is a very tall bridge.

    The photo you showed makes it look a little bit (to out of town folks) like that’s a dual-freeway bridge with northbound lanes on one bridge and southbound on the other. The bridge that is still standing in that photo is the Cedar Avenue bridge. Both north and southbound lanes of 35W were on the bridge that collapsed.

  6. bearing says:

    The bridge is 64 feet above the water according to the link in my post above.

  7. bearing says:

    The skies are threatening thunder and lightning, here, too.

  8. Mad Max, Esquire says:

    The bridge was inspected in 2005 and 2006 and given a clean bill of health. I imagine there are people at an engineering firm shitting their pants right now. It will be interesting to see what caused this, if the firm missed something and if the members of the firm who worked on the report will be held accountable (along the lines of the driver in Phoenix who is being blamed for the helicopters crashing)should it turn out they did a half-assed job of inspecting the bridge.

    Anyway you look at it, this is an awful tragedy for the people of the Twin Cities and Minnesota.

  9. Mad Max, Esquire says:

    Interesting comments from an engineer. He doesn’t believe the pile-driving in the limestone near the bridge contributed to its falling. However, he thinks that if serious stress fractures weren’t caught during the last inspection, the closing of one or two lanes of traffic on the bridge for construction purposes could have caused the bridge to be off-balance…

    …If it turns out that that is all that was needed to cause this, that’s pretty damn scary.