More Spin for the Span

After the tragic collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis last August, the state wants to "restore the image of the beleaguered Minnesota Department of Transportation." So Minnesota is paying the public relations firm Himle Horner at least $550,000. The firm's work includes a "proactive, on-the-ground" initiative with "information kiosks, attempts to shape media coverage and weekly 'sidewalk superintendent tours' of the construction work." It also plans "to use a webcam to beam a half-hour live educational show from the bridge site to all Minnesota school-age children." The PR campaign was a major part of the bridge reconstruction contract. The U.S. Department of Transportation said the contract "emphasized public relations and aesthetics more heavily" than similar projects in the state. Some are questioning the need for the PR. "Who's against building a new 35W bridge?" asked the legislative director of the advocacy group Minnesota Transportation Alliance. "It ain't the spin, it's the span," quipped one columnist.