The White House said an inspection of the 40-year-old bridge in 2005 found problems. The Interstate 35W span rated 50 on a scale of 100 for structural stability and was classified as “structurally deficient,” transportation officials said.
The designation means some portions of the bridge needed to be scheduled for repair or replacement. “It didn’t mean that the bridge is unsafe,” Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said.
Earlier, at the White House, press secretary Tony Snow said while the inspection didn’t indicate the bridge was at risk of failing, “If an inspection report identifies deficiencies, the state is responsible for taking corrective actions.”
Shepherd said regardless of who is to blame for the collapse, other states will most likely take the knowledge gained from this tragedy to improve state overpasses and bridges.
The official death count from Wednesday evening’s collapse stood at four as of press time Thursday, but Police Chief Tim Dolan said more bodies were in the water. Hospitals officials confirmed 79 others were injured.
Twelve vehicles had been located in the river, officials said, still more were lodged under heavy sections of concrete.
“We have a number of vehicles that are underneath big pieces of concrete, and we do know we have some people in those vehicles,” Dolan said. “We know we do have more casualties at the scene.”
The eight-lane Interstate 35W bridge, a major Minneapolis artery, was in the midst of repairs when it buckled during the evening rush hour. Dozens of cars plummeted more than 60 feet into the Mississippi River, some falling on top one of another.
The bridge is the state’s busiest, and carries approximately 141,000 vehicles per day.
The steel-arched bridge, built in 1967, rose 64 feet above the river and stretched 1,900 feet across the water. It was built with a single 458-foot-long steel arch to avoid the need for piers that might interfere with river navigation. The depth of the water underneath the bridge is between 4 to 14 feet, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.
Shepherd said no local bridges share the same construction design as the collapsed Minnesota bridge.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.