News, culture, and politics. Not necessarily in that order.

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Bridge to the 21st Century

August 6th, 2007 · 2 Comments · Culture, Infrastructure, Media, News, Politics, Public Transportation, TV, Video

Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow say pretty much what I’ve been wanting to say about the Minneapolis bridge collapse story.

I hate to say it, but I feel like we’ve just had a “welcome to the 21st century” kind of moment, and this isn’t going to be the last time this kind of preventable disaster happens.

We’ve had several decades now of Republicans robbing our federal and state governments in order to give huge tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires.

The result is that budgets for things like infrastructure, public transportation, and other necessities of human life get gutted. And we’re left with roads, bridges, and train systems that are aging fast and in dire need of overhauls they’re not getting.

Underneath our cities are pipes that were installed in 1924, like the one that recently exploded in New York, killing one person and injuring 20 others — while we walk around on the surface thinking everything’s fine because Fox News tells us it’s good to keep shrinking the government.

This is from Time magazine by way of Yahoo News, from an eerily prescient article written before the bridge collapse (boldface is my emphasis):

Urban planning experts say America’s older cities are modern-day Pompeiis – within range of volcanoes of infrastructure failures like New York’s. On Wednesday, a pipe, laid in 1924, exploded near Grand Central station, killing one person and injuring 30. Maintaining a sewer system is hardly a sexy political issue, but years of funding neglect and a subsequent lack of maintenance nationwide have left many of the country’s engineering systems unprepared to handle future stresses. “We have an aging infrastructure in this country, and we are not doing enough to maintain it and replace it,” said Sarah Catz, director of the Center for Urban Infrastructure at University of California-Irvine. “What you saw happen in New York will happen in all types of infrastructures.”

The issue is widespread, said Dan LeClair, who teaches city planning at Boston University. “It’s not just pipes,” he said. “It’s bridges, it’s roads, it’s electrical systems, it’s a variety of things that can happen in a man-made environment that can have a disastrous effect.” A recent report by the Urban Land Institute determined that America’s comparatively low investment in various transportation infrastructure – airports, public transit, railway systems, roads and bridges – has created an “emerging crisis.” Of the 30 state transportation planning directors surveyed for the report, 25 said the nation’s transportation infrastructure is incapable of meeting the nation’s needs over the next decade.

Finally, from another story (via Aaron) on the bridge collapse, note this buried lead:

According to the Federal Highway Administration, 75,422 of the approximately 600,000 bridges nationwide in 2006 carried a “structurally deficient” classification.

And as Rachel Maddow points out in the video above, “if you only look at bridges that carry 190,000 cars a day, there are at least 20 that rate worse than that bridge that collapsed.”

Drive safely.


2 Comments so far ↓

  • Aaron

    I remember being terrified of all bridges when I was little. I was SURE they were going to collapse while I was on them. I still don’t like driving over them, especially the really ornate ones–all that “frippery” just HAS to mean less attention to sound structural engineering!

  • jim s.

    yeah, republicans like to say, ‘oh, you can’t tax me … government is the problem .. its my money, i wanna keep it!’ etc., etc., but don’t smart people ever call them out on it and reply, ‘yeah, well, you want to drive to work on dirt roads and have to stop when you get to water? or all those street lights that are on, well, turn them off, because they cost money, and that water you’re drinking? out of the tap because you wouldn’t waste hard-earned cash on bottled water, well, that has to treated before its safe to drink and that costs money too.’ and on, and on.

    its easier, i suppose, reduce debates to bumper stickers and call people ‘tax and spend liberals who want to take my money away,’ and divert attention from the real problems — ‘hey, look, there’s two dudes gettin’ married! let’s stop that!’

    its worked for them so far, though …