A 35E bridge that dumped 1,200 pounds of concrete on two cars Saturday was reopened. The Strib’s Chris Havens says workers first knocked off more chunks as a precaution. MnDOT says the 50-year-old bridge is “structurally safe,” adding that they knew last year the deck was breaking down, but “nothing suggested” pieces would break off so soon. Heard that one before? The bridge had a sufficiency rating of 77, above 35W’s 50, and is scheduled to be replaced in 2014. WCCO provides a gander at the damage here.
Related: A new website, saferoads.org, debuted; it visually showcases fatal accidents around the state. The U’s Center for Excellence in Rural Safety plotted 42,000 traffic fatalities from 2006, the Strib’s Jeff Shelman reports; you can plug in any address and see where the killer accidents occurred. A “disproportionate” number of fatalities occur in rural areas. In the fall, 2007 data will be added.
Everyone has scene-setters for Olga Franco’s trial, which opens today; she’s the illegal immigrant accused of killing four Cottonwood, Minn., kids with a van. Franco’s attorney is preparing an “alternative perpetrator defense,” but one law professor tells MPR’s Tim Post that defense will be difficult because the alleged driver, Franco’s boyfriend, hasn’t been found. The Strib’s Pam Louwagie notes that Hispanic affinity/antipathy will play a big part in jury selection; the trial was moved to Willmar, which has plenty of both.
Elsewhere on the immigrant tension beat, the Strib’s Jon Tevlin chronicles 150 Twin Cities Jews who marched through Postville, Iowa, supporting “hundreds” of illegal Central American workers “because they were mistreated while supplying U.S. Jews with kosher meat.” A local activist says Jewish tradition requires welcoming strangers and opposing exploitation; marchers want a displaced worker fund. Locals pulled up lawn chairs to watch, some shouting “Go Home!” Postville’s mayor supports the workers, however. Julianna Olsen’s KARE take is here.
The dog that didn’t bark: The Strib’s Herón Márquez Estrada writes that next month the Monticello nuke plant will be begin storing spent fuel onsite — with no protests. That wasn’t the case at Prairie Island some years back. Global warming concerns, high prices, and high electricity demand are factors, he speculates. Enviros range from opposed to sanguine, but no one is marching.
The latest anarchist missive threatening to shut down I-94 for the Republican National Convention is posted at Cleveland IndyMedia. Fashion tip: “Wear white.”
KARE’s Trisha Volpe reports St. Paul cops are targeting undercover drug buys near the Dorothy Day Center, where dealers regularly sell to addicts getting treatment. Thirty suspects were arrested in “Operation Gridlock.” The move comes a year after a similar effort yielded 60 arrests in downtown St. Paul. Police say last year’s event took many bad guys out of circulation, and forecast similar reductions this year. “Three or four” more St. Paul spots will get similar enforcement soon.
I don’t know if this is defining success down, but the Strib’s Liz Fedor says Northwest Airlines is, “on some days, completing 100 percent of its scheduled flights.” The 98.7 percent finish rate is up from last summer’s 94.7 percent, when pilots and management were fighting. Factors: fewer pilot hours and broken planes, plus more schedule flex. The airline also has the fewest mishandled bags among the six majors.
The newly skinny early-week PiPress debuts today: just eight pages of local/national news — the same as in sports. The diet repeats on Tuesdays. Publisher Guy Gilmore blames a 30-percent newsprint hike, but optimistically posits that “your ‘time on site’ probably won’t change. The paper has axed some stock tables. Editor Thom Fladung talked about the changes here last week.
Connoisseurs of Minnesota political history will want to read this Chicago Tribune editorial likening current Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to our own Rudy Perpich. Like our guy, Blagojevich is Croatian, a Democrat and has “goofy” tendencies that are “tragicomic,” Tribune editorialists opine. (Key difference: Rod, not Rudy, is subject of an FBI corruption investigation.)
The city of Minneapolis has started making for-profit vendors with Minneapolis Park Board leases pay property taxes and the fur is flying, reports Twin Cities Daily Planet’s Scott Russell. The city is mad the Park Board wouldn’t give up lease info, the vendors are mad and trying to pay the Park Board less rent, and the Park Board is mad that the assessments seem too high. Gotta love divided Minneapolis government!
The Twin Cities take the top spot in a survey on volunteering: 39 percent of metro residents donate time to worthy causes, AP reports. On a state basis, Utah ranks first at 43 percent; Minnesota was third. An independent federal agency compiled the rankings.
These pieces were penned late last week, but if you want to read a couple of lovely examples of newspaper writing, see Jim Ragsdale’s PiPress recap of the Barbara Winn trial and the Strib’s James Shiffer eulogizing a slain local journalist’s daughter.
Nort spews: The Twins broke up Jeremy Sowers’ six-inning perfect game, pulling out a series win with a 4-2 comeback triumph over the Tribe. Sore Loser here. The Twins are again 2.5 back of Chicago as the teams begin a four-game Metrodome series tonight. The Lynx score zero in overtime and lose to L.A. 92-84.