Inside Minnesota Politics

Oberstar Blasts NTSB Chair For 35W Bridge Comments

Jan. 23, 2008

The National Transportation Safety Board usually follows a strict policy of not announcing the cause of an accident until the investigation is completed. Yet last week even though the NTSB reported it had not determined the probable cause of the 35W bridge collapse, NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker said a design flaw in the bridge's gusset plates "tells us why the bridge collapsed."

Minnesota Congressman Jim Oberstar is taking Rosenker to task for his remarks, calling them "unfortunate" and suggesting that they could compromise the NTSB's investigation.

In a letter sent to Rosenker today, Oberstar writes:

"I consider it highly inappropriate for you to have stated as you did in the press conference, that the poor design of the plates 'tells us why the bridge collapsed.' Although you admitted you do not have complete information on corrosion, you nonetheless insisted that poor design was the 'critical factor.'
"Such announcements undermine the process and create the potential for committing the board to conclusions that will be difficult to change if the subsequent investigation suggests other conclusions.
"I strongly urge you to adhere to the Board's established process of not announcing the cause of an accident until the investigation is completed."

In the letter Oberstar indicated that holding the press conference was the right thing to do since other bridges may have the same design flaw. A pdf of the letter is here neither hosts nor alters podcast files. All content © its respective owners.