Civic beat :: Firm agrees to $52 million bridge settlement

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August 30, 2010
By: Jake Weyer
Jake Weyer
After years of litigation, San Francisco-based engineering firm URS Corp. agreed Aug. 23 to pay $52.4 million to settle numerous lawsuits from the Aug. 1, 2007 Interstate 35W bridge collapse that killed 13 people and injured 145.

“URS believes it is in the best interest of the company and its shareholders to resolve this matter and avoid the cost and distraction of protracted litigation,” the firm said in a prepared statement about the settlement.

The statement stressed that the company reached the agreement with no admission of liability or fault and that it was not involved in the bridge’s design, construction or later resurfacing work. The state hired URS as a consultant on the bridge and the company was working at the site at the time of the collapse.  

“The I-35W bridge collapse was a tragedy, which the National Transportation Safety Board concluded was caused by a design flaw, compounded by large weight increases from upgrade projects over the years, and the traffic and construction loads on the day the bridge collapsed,” URS said.

Law firm Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi and other firms representing the victims will donate $1.5 million of the settlement to a long-delayed memorial remembering the disaster. Mayor R.T. Rybak said he’s been working with survivors, victims’ families, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and architects on a redesigned memorial near the river.

Plans originally called for a memorial on the leased Gold Medal Park property, but the city has recently explored other options on permanent parkland. The financial boost from the law firms will help the city overcome financial challenges the memorial presented, Rybak said.

“On behalf of the city of Minneapolis, I extend my great thanks to the Robins and other law firms for their very generous donation to the long-awaited 35W bridge memorial,” he said in a prepared statement. “Their gift represents a new landmark in the history of civic giving in Minneapolis, and our entire city, region and state owes them a debt of gratitude.”

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has also received permission to remove a field of twisted bridge-collapse remnants from Bohemian Flats Park.