Baltimore collapse raises questions about safety measures for new Blatnik Bridge

Baltimore collapse raises questions about safety measures for new Blatnik Bridge

Baltimore collapse raises questions about safety measures for new Blatnik Bridge

The deadly bridge collapse involving a cargo ship Tuesday in Baltimore has raised attention about bridge safety across the country.

The container ship Dali was headed to Sri Lanka when it lost power and struck one of the supports on the Francis Scott Key Bridge while leaving Baltimore’s Harbor. That crash caused a span to break and fall into the water within a matter of seconds.

Six people who were working on the bridge at the time of the collision have been presumed dead. Federal authorities continue to investigate the incident.

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, two bridges, the Blatnik and Bong, in the Duluth-Superior harbor, cross navigable waters that carry ocean-going vessels.

“We have comprehensive emergency plans should a bridge sustain a hit and require rescue operations,” a MnDOT spokesperson wrote to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. “For bridges over bodies of water in Minnesota, we put safety measures in place to both prevent any direct hit to the bridge and to mitigate any risk to the structure through our design should it sustain a collision.”

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority said none of the ships entering the Duluth-Superior harbor are the size of the Baltimore ship.

Plans are in the works to rebuild the Blatnik Bridge, which spans the water between Duluth and Superior, Wisconsin.

In light of what happened in Baltimore, MnDOT wrote, “Increasing safety on the Blatnik Bridge to further mitigate this specific risk will be a core component of Blatnik design work.”

Design work continues for the bridge, and construction is expected to be finished by 2032.

The current Blatnik Bridge does have devices in the water as part of a bridge protection system, according to Brock Hedegaard, an associate professor of structural engineering at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Hedegaard feels the Baltimore tragedy could help engineers design improved detection systems.

“I think it’s going to have everybody reexamine how and to what standard do we design these bridge detection systems,” he said. “How are we intercepting vessels that go off-course?”

Data shows there are 54 bridges in Minnesota that cross over navigable waters that are accessible to barges. According to MnDOT, two water vessels have crashed into bridges in the past two decades.