UC Berkeley News
Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

Experts available to comment on Minnesota bridge collapse


Below are University of California, Berkeley, structural engineers who are available to comment on the collapse Wednesday (Aug. 1) of the Interstate Highway 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minnesota. The eight-lane, 1,900-foot-long arch truss bridge collapsed into the river during the evening rush hour.

Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl
Professor, civil and environmental engineering
Cell: (925) 699-3902
Home Office: (925) 946-0903
E-mail: astaneh@ce.berkeley.edu

Expertise: Astaneh is one of the country's leading experts on the response of steel and composite structures to earthquakes, bombs and fire. With funding from the National Science Foundation, he investigated the collapse of the World Trade Center towers and presented his findings before a Congressional committee in 2002.

Astaneh says arch truss bridges are very economical for the amount of load they can sustain, but they are more vulnerable to instability than other systems, such as suspension or cable stay bridges. "Failure of any single structural member - such as a supporting beam or column - can lead to the collapse of the whole span," he says. "It's like a weight being supported by a chain. Failure of one link will cause the weight to collapse."

William Ibbs
Professor of civil engineering
Home Office: (510) 420-8625
E-mail: ibbs@ce.berkeley.edu

Expertise: Ibbs' background is in construction engineering and management. He is an expert on the design and construction of large civil and industrial engineering projects. He can talk about what project delays and failures mean to the bottom line.

He has testified before the Massachusetts Highway Department about the cost and scheduling problems with Boston's infamous Big Dig project, and the California legislature about the delays and cost overruns involved in the construction of the new Bay Bridge eastern span. He is also an active consultant to companies and agencies in this country and abroad.

Ibbs says this collapse highlights the broader problem of maintaining this country's aging infrastructure. "We're not doing a good job nationally," he says. "We saw this problem with the levee failures in Hurricane Katrina. We should be spending money not only to prevent failures, but also to upgrade and improve our current roads, bridges and dams that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The problem is that these massive projects are not glamorous. Politicians often want to invest in projects that are splashy and immediate. Construction projects can take a decade or more to complete, yet they are vital to our economic and social well-being."