Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Bridge Too Far...From Stable: Conclusion...

Spotlight on Minneapolis Bridge Disaster

Tomorrow marks the two week anniversary of the I-35W Bridge collapse which horrified a country, but thankfully has only claimed 9 people. Another 4 or 5 remain missing.

The question remains as to whether this nation will have the will to actually change the situation. Some, including Rep. Dingell of Michigan have proposed new gas taxes to pay for a backlog of maintenance. Pres. Bush has opposed such moves claiming that Congress needs to take stock of its priorities. While it is painful to say, he is right. Congress does need to take a step back from some of the junk it earmarks or projects its lobbies agencies like the US Dept. of Transportation and General Services Administration. However, that alone will not solve the problem. The tax combined with some rollback of wasteful new "bridges to nowhere" would go a long way.

While we do need to curb some new projects, even some that are neither wasteful nor unnecessary, in favor of maintenance, this cannot be universal. Following the New York City subway meltdown due to rain, one letter to the editor in the New York Times recommended that the MTA scrap the Second Avenue subway in order to implement easily the most ambitious communication upgrade in public transit history. This is hardly an option as the Lexington Avenue line, due for some relief when the 2nd Ave line opens, will still be dangerously busy on the days that everything is dandy. Investing in a better email notice system is more than enough there.

The Times also had a segment about how such old things like the Brooklyn Bridge and the NYC subway and countless other structures keep going without replacement. They are big and too bid and expensive to replace. History as with the case of the Brooklyn Bridge also plays a role. Plus they are built well. With modest maintenance, such structures can last a long time. Can anybody say Roman Colosseum?

Locally it all remains to be seen. Apparently the Mass Turnpike Bridge and Ludlow-IO bridge both are on the watch list for state. The North End Bridge appears safe, despite sharing similar qualities to the Minneapolis' bridge. The Julia B. Buxton, better known as the South End bridge, is being inspected as we speak. Ol' Julia was supposedly recommended for replacement, but was rehabbed instead. No word on whether that rehab done over the last 2 or 10 years (take your pick) made replacement unnecessary for the mean.

If our politicians choose to prefer affixing their names to monuments for the ages rather than pushing for repair, it is up to us then. We as citizens must be vigilant and watch for sudden wasteful projects and decrepit crossings. Remember, a pot-holy street is annoying, but not likely to lead to our death. As Minneapolis tells us, a falling bridge will. As such, when we see these things, it is essential that we call our reps and demand that our safety on today's bridge cannot be traded or awe in tomorrow's bridge. We should also call the Highway Dept or whatever relevant agency. We need to watch the votes in Boston and in Washington. And, if need be we must act at the Voting Booth.

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