This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," August 3, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST:Because of the bridge collapse Wednesday in Minneapolis, bridges across the country are now under closer inspection than ever before, so how do we prevent something like this so it doesn't happen again? Joining us now, bridge forensic investigator Timothy Galarnyk and corrosion engineering expert William Schutt.
Timothy, I understand you have a model of this bridge with you. Could you walk us through? We're going to show a video also on our screen — show our audience what happened a little bit slower than it actually took place. Could you tell us what you think transpired here?
TIMOTHY GALARNYK, BRIDGE FORENSIC INVESTIGATOR: Yes, good evening. Actually, I didn't get the model quite finished yet. It's quite a complicated model. And as I'm studying the photographs and the footage from the news, I'm learning new things and more complex things. What I believe happened, based upon looking at a lot of the pictures and the video, is the collapse was initiated in the south approach truss span.
GALARNYK: Well, I'd like to see a copy of the inspection reports from '05 and '06 which identify where the cracking, the fatigue crackings were occurring. My understanding, there was a crack that was approximately four feet long in that area, and those need to be looked at to determine the initiation point of the collapse.
One thing that stood out when I looked at it on Wednesday night is that approach span seemed to have rotated to the east, which indicates that there was some failure of the substructure and the deck fell off to the west. Maybe that was caused because of the staging of the traffic during the construction phase along with the weakening steel.
COLMES: William, let me go to you. You're the first person to talk to the media about the issue of corrosion. Is that key here, these corrosive elements? And why would it cause such corrosion?
WILLIAM SCHUTT, CORROSION ENGINEERING EXPERT: Well, it's certainly important that we look and investigate it. And I have seen the reports on the television. The one thing that I saw today and I heard mentioned yesterday, that this weakening and the problems they had, they said in one report that it was corrosion-induced, which is not unusual.
In the 1970s, the federal government said over 60 percent of the bridges in the United States, or the 500,000 federal bridges had a corrosion problem. I saw today parts of this report that was in 2006. And when I looked at that report that was on television, the photos showed rust stains around the pins that hold the various sections together. We're going to find out how the bridge failed now, but what led to that failure and what caused it, corrosion certainly can be one of the big problems. It's certainly a major problem on most of the bridges we have in the United States with problems.
COLMES: Timothy, are you in sync with what William is saying? And do you agree that we've covered almost everything in terms of what could have led to this, I mean, construction going on, corrosion? What are we leaving out here?
GALARNYK: Well, the corrosion, as we know, the winters in Minnesota are harsh, and you have salts and chlorides that are placed on the structure during the course of the winter months. Much of the corrosion may be in the areas of the bearings, which is the area where the bridge is allowed to move and expand and contract during the winter and during the weather.
But surface corrosion — which is called rusting— if the surface corrosion is simply there but doesn't penetrate and affect the structural capacity of the steel, that's one thing. But the fatigue cracking, the word "fatigue" simply is it's worn out, it now has reached its useful life, this bridge was designed, I believe, in 1964, '67, when it was built. Then it was designed for approximately 40,000 vehicles per day. Now we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 150,000 to 180,000 vehicles per day.
The bridge is eight lanes wide and is founded — the structure is founded on a two-pole truss system. The deck is on top of the truss, and there are very wide overhangs on this truss. And the southbound traffic was on the far — excuse me, the far right-hand side, lanes were open, the two outside lanes.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Let me bring William Schutt back in here. William, we're talking about, since 1990, Minnesota officials had been warned that this bridge was structurally deficient, 1990. We're talking about a long period of time here. We're talking about the fatigue cracks that were chronicled for this particular bridge. You have mentioned the corrosion issue here. And it raises the question, you know, it seems that this may have been something that was major that was missed here. And now we're told today there are 70,000 bridges in America that are structurally deficient. Should all these bridges be closed?
SCHUTT: I don't know if they should be closed. We have to look at — the structural engineer has to determine if they're safe at this time. But the one thing that I've been hearing that bothers me — and we heard this the other week when that steam line blew up — "Oh, it's old, we should expect that this is going to be a problem." Because it's old it's not a problem.
What concerns me here is that we're seeing testing done at one period of time. And that's like taking a picture of a car going on an expressway, and we know it's at mile 300. We don't know how fast it's going, so they need to take these readings, and they need to take these tests. And I think more tests than they've been doing at closer intervals so we know at what rate we're getting these problems and so they can deal with it. It did happen over four years...
HANNITY: Let me ask Timothy this question. Timothy, I mean, if they knew about this, and they've been warned since 1990 about the structural deficiency of this particular bridge, they have patchwork repair basically going on, stepped up inspections. They see the fractures, they chronicled all of these here, are we now beginning to see a scenario emerge where all the warning signs were missed here?
GALARNYK: I think that that is a good summary. When you have cracks that are developing, fatigue cracks, the first thing that you have to do is you have to determine the source of the cracks. Don't fix the cracks. Find out what's causing the cracks. Then you fix the source of the cracks, and then you fix the cracks.
What we have over here is these are early warning signs that, in my opinion, has not been heeded to. These are very major things that have to be addressed. Now, with the rating system that we have, I am not sure that the rating system is uniform and objective. — Is it uniform across the country?
COLMES: Guys, we thank you very much for being with us tonight and shedding light on this with all the information you have, Timothy and William. Thank you very much.
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