Friday, August 1, 2008

If it is not the airlines putting people at risk, it is our roads

We here in the US have a rather ugly anniversary on our hands today. One year ago, the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis collapsed, killing 13 and injuring many more and this evening is the subject of a special [called Road to Ruin] on CNN:

What is rather scary about this structural failure is that this bridge is just one of many, way too many in every state that are barely usuable. Some bridges are so bad in fact that they either have holes in their roadways or for that matter are missing major pieces of metal in the beams that help hold the road or rail that cross on these said same bridges. In effect, the accident in the Twin Cities is a harbinger of things to come, unless something is done and soon.

Dear readers, one of the main reasons given as to why the needed repairs or replacements cannot be done at this time or is being deferred is the lack of money. Now granted, fewer folks are driving, buying less gas and paying less in gas taxes. Some of the taxes in turn are used to maintain the Highway Trust Fund which is earmarked for what? Highway repair of course. But before the current gas crisis, before 9/11...these issues were still facing us, en masse.

It may have been the thinking on the part of the powers that be that the time will always be there to do the repairs. Perhaps they are even thinking that 'if the Roman Aqueducts lasted til this day, then heck our little 4 lane bridge should be good til the next century'. Not so and even scarier..unlikely.

Just to give you an idea of how bad things are, let me relate a conversation I overheard one evening several years ago while crossing on the BMT subway line's Manhattan Bridge sector. There were a couple maintenance supervisors talking to the engineer of our train and it was just casually said that the I-beams which were holding up the tracks and the roads next to them had gaping holes in them, but it was still safe to travel on. Yes...this was said in such a blase fashion....which is even scarier. It was almost as though that if this were to fall apart, crash and people end up going to their final reward in the East River that it would be [SIC] '...just the cost of business...'

Now not all of our infrastructure is in this bad a shape, but if 1 in 4 of our bridges is in such disrepair that they need to be replaced and soon, that should be our wakeup call to get this dome and soon. Otherwise, we will not have learned one goshdarn thing from the accident in Minneapolis one year ago. Lives lost due to ignorance and deferred maintenance....not something that any right thinking person or government for that matter should want to have on their conscience.

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