Steel from 35W bridge collapse placed in new St. Thomas engineering building

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School officials say it’s not a memorial, but rather an important piece of education.

Saturday, a reminder of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse was taken out of storage and set in the basement of the University of St. Thomas’ new engineering building.

The mangled steel and bowing metal that snapped during rush hour on Aug. 1, 2007, was deemed a design flaw by the National Transportation Safety Board.

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“We have to learn from that and we have to be deliberate about how we learn from that,” Don Weinkauf, dean of the University of St. Thomas’ school of engineering.

A forensic investigation showed the gusset plates were only half as thick as they should’ve been. The catastrophe has upended safety protocols across the country.

In the university’s engineering building, students will be able to see it on the way to class so it can serve as a reminder that engineers often have people’s lives in their hands.

“This shows exactly how integrated engineers are with society, the work that they do, whether it’s the internet or the interstate, that we’re a vital part of this community, a vital part of society, and our engineering students have an obligation to serve in that way,” Weinkauf said.

The building that will house the university’s engineering school is set to open in the spring of 2024.

The main piece of steel responsible for the entire collapse is owned and stored by the Minnesota Historical Society.