Renewing Our Call for Safe, Accessible Infrastructure

15 years ago today, tragedy struck our state and sent shockwaves throughout our country. On August 1, 2007, the I-35W bridge collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145 others.

AFSCME Council 5 members answered 911 calls, dispatched first responders, met ambulances at hospitals, provided Red Cross blood services, controlled crowds and guided traffic to keep Minnesotans safe in the midst of the tragedy and chaos. We worked side by side with other union members, including firefighters, police officers and nurses during and after the tragedy. We Make Minnesota Happen, especially during times of immense pressure and heartache.

Sounding the alarm..

Before the I-35W bridge collapse, we blew the whistle on corner-cutting bosses who ignored our warnings about dangerous bridge conditions, and we ultimately convinced lawmakers to invest in safe infrastructure.

AFSCME Council 5 Field Services Director Bart Andersen, then a Bridge Inspector at the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and member of Local 221, sounded this alarm before the bridge’s collapse. After the tragedy, Jim Oberstar​, then-U.S. Congressman and Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, invited Bart to speak at a public hearing with Members of Congress in Washington D.C. to talk about the fact that no bridge should ever collapse in America and that we must always listen to frontline workers who sound the alarm and do their jobs with excellence and service to the public every single day.

In the aftermath of the bridge collapse, AFSCME members fought hard to ensure that no more bridges would fall in Minnesota, that is why we were proud to be on the leading edge in our fight for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act that invests hundreds of billions in our nation’s infrastructure systems.

In Minnesota...

AFSCME Council 5 Executive Director Julie Bleyhl, then-Legislative Director, led the charge with our members against Governor Tim Pawlenty and helped secure an override of Pawlenty's veto of a bill that put massive investments in our infrastructure system, including a significant increase in the gas tax that goes directly into our roads and bridges. Minnesotans demanded significant investments in our transportation system and our union continues to lead the effort.

As we honor the 13 people who were tragically lost that day and celebrate the lives of the 145 survivors, we renew our commitment to safe roads, bridges, bike paths and transit for all Minnesotans.