Reparations for bridge collapse

The $1 million total for victims of the I-35W bridge collapse is far from enough.

Late last week, the governor and Legislature announced a compensation fund of $1 million for injured survivors and families of victims of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse. It doesn’t appear this will be the last payment from the state, and for those who were most harshly affected by the bridge collapse, it is a relief that progress is being made. State leaders, however, should avoid patting themselves on the back just yet; there’s a lot of work to be done.

Divided among the families of 13 victims and around 100 injured survivors, the $1 million will go toward payment for lost work time – up to $10,000. Considering that this catastrophe was a failure in fundamental state infrastructure, this sum is disappointing to say the least. With many of the survivors missing time at work and facing daunting medical bills, the funds might not go very far.

Fortunately, the agreement was reached in such a way that the money is available without legislative approval, so recipients won’t have to wait until the Legislature reconvenes in February. Then the discussion will continue about appropriate compensation. Hopefully additional payments are on the way.

Reports of MnDOT’s failures continue to fill the news, and former emergency manager Sonia Pitt’s incompetence becomes more apparent every day. As the state pours money into the new I-35W bridge (the most expensive of the proposed bridge designs), we must not forget those who were affected most by the tragedy. While the state will not admit fault for this tragedy because of the legal ramifications, we need to make sure those who suffered are justly compensated.

A government should, at the very least, provide basic services and protect its citizens. On Aug. 1, the state of Minnesota failed its citizens, and now the damage must be repaired. Giving the survivors and victims’ families fair compensation won’t reverse the agony they have felt, but it is an essential part of rebuilding our confidence in the state government.