Divers search the Mississippi River on Thursday for victims of Wednesday’s bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

A quick survey shows Pennsylvania has at least 30 bridges similar to the truss-arch span that collapsed in Minneapolis, but PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler on Thursday reassured the public.

“It makes your mind go crazy. But we need to see where we are before we react,” said Biehler, who was unable to say whether any of the 30 bridges are in the Cambria-Somerset area.

He spoke during a break in the state Transportation Commission biannual hearing in Altoona.

Biehler left the meeting for a phone call and later reported it was from Gov. Ed Rendell seeking information about the potential for a similar tragedy in Pennsylvania.

Wednesday’s horrific bridge collapse was on the minds of many at the hearing, held to gather input from local and county transportation and economic development officials in Cambria, Somerset and a handful of other counties.

“We’re going through our portfolio of bridges to see which ones have a similar design as that on Interstate 35 (in Minneapolis),” he said. “We still don’t know what happened, but we have to be very aggressive.”

State Rep. Rick Geist, R-Altoona, chairman of the state House Transportation Committee, was more outspoken.

He said it’s only a question of when – not if – a similar catastrophe will occur here, where an estimated 25 percent of the state’s 25,000 bridges need significant repair.

“The chances are great. The probability of something like this happening here is very high,” Geist said.

“We have the will to fix mass transit, but no will to address highway and bridge problems.”

Transportation commission member Ed Cernic Sr. said PennDOT will monitor the Minnesota situation – and learn from it.

“You always have the potential for a problem,” Cernic said.

“But we’re right on top of everything that is going on.”

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