Let’s talk about our infrastructure and why it has to be a priority. We have just had a bridge built in 1955 collapse in Mount Vernon, WA because we can’t get an infrastructure jobs bill passed when one of every nine bridges in this country are structurally deficient. We dodged a bullet this time as there was no loss of life but that is a miracle in itself. Two vehicles plunged into the river and three people have been rescued and hospitalized.However, quite a few others only avoided disaster by slamming on their brakes, so it had the potential to be much, much worse.
According to the National Bridge Inventory, a database compiled by the Federal Highway Administration, the Skagit River bridge was built in 1955 and was deemed “functionally obsolete” as recently as 2010.
It was much worse in Minnesota in August of 2007 when the I-35W Bridge collapsed killing 13 and injuring 145. That bridge was built in 1958 and it simply collapsed so these are not “user errors” but failures of the bridges themselves. These are wakeup calls and we’d better not turn off the alarm and snooze or it’s going to get worse.
It doesn’t necessarily mean they are unsafe, although in many cases that’s true also. But if you think about the size of trucks when these bridges were built in the 40s and 50s compared to the size of those vehicles today you realize that at the very least they have been outclassed by the trucking industry. On the bridge where I live when two trucks cross at the same time going in opposite directions they slap mirrors trying to pass each other because trucks just weren’t that big when it was built. Over 13% of our bridges are in desperate need of repair or rebuilding. I’ve had truck drivers tell me some of these bridges make them want to close their eyes when they cross them.
And it’s not just our bridges. We have over 84,000 dams that were also built between the 30s and 40s that desperately need work. Katrina was made much worse because of old levees that hadn’t been maintained. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers had been issuing warnings for over a decade that those levees needed work, and with the added stress caused by the destruction of the wetlands they could not withstand a Cat 3 hurricane. They had projects planned every year for ten years to work on those levees but they were canceled due to budget cuts. Then Katrina hit and New Orleans drowned along with most of the Gulf Coast.
If there’s one thing the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers knows it is watershed. I live on the Mississippi River and I’ve never seen them be wrong when it comes to predicting watershed and the damage that will ensue. It’s what they do and they do it well. In 1973 and 1993 they said exactly how high the Mississippi River was going to get. Many didn’t believed them because it had never been that high before. However, the Corps of Engineers got it right as they always do. They’re engineers and we need to listen to the people who know what they’re talking about. It is math and they know their numbers.
When Nashville was flooded a few years back and everyone in the county music crowd was bemoaning the flooding of the Grand Ole Opry, the Wolf Creek dam just north of there in Kentucky was in trouble and they didn’t even know it while they were crying over the Opry. These dams were well-built using old technology and they badly need upgrading. Many like the Wolf Creek dam were built on top of limestone beds. The limestone is porous so it has eroded and weakened from absorbing water for about 75 years. The Corps of Engineers had been shoving grout under that dam for some time trying to keep it stable but it was still necessary to keep the water levels low to ensure its stability. Then the rains and flooding came and they were in a bind. Should they keep the levels low by letting more water flow through to Nashville, when it was already flooded by failing levees, or try to hold more of it back and maybe lose the dam wiping out Nashville completely?
It seems all we’ve heard about for months is Benghazi now mixed with the screaming about the IRS and AP “scandals.” The people want jobs but the GOP seems to be frantic for a scandal to distract people from the fact that they are refusing to do their jobs in favor of promoting their political agenda. I don’t know about you but I’m disgusted by it. The country is starved for jobs that pay a living wage and there is work that desperately needs to be done…a lot of it.
All we hear is budgets and budget cutting but the fact is the budget deficit is falling at the fastest rate it has since WWII. These infrastructure issues can’t be ignored unless we want to pay a terrible price. We were still climbing out of the Great Depression and also had the debt from WWII when we built the interstate highway system under Eisenhower. So the question isn’t whether we can afford to do this, but whether we can afford not to do it.
Can we say infrastructure more times than they can say “Benghazi” or “IRS?” The real scandal will be when one of these old dams gives way and whole towns and cities are wiped out. Can they even hear us yelling “JOBS!” with all the dirty money crammed in their ears? “We the people” need to focus on what’s important and hold the ones accountable who won’t take the dirty money out of their ears to listen to us…because when it comes to fixing things it’s always been up to “we the people.”
2013 ReportCard on America’s Infrastructure | Dams. (n.d.). 2013 ReportCard on America’s Infrastructure . Retrieved May 24, 2013, from http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/dams/
A look back: The I-35W bridge collapse | StarTribune.com. (n.d.). StarTribune.com: News, weather, sports from Minneapolis, St. Paul and Minnesota. Retrieved May 24, 2013, from http://www.startribune.com/projects/11608881.html
Are U.S. bridges in disrepair? – Video on NBCNews.com. (n.d.). Breaking News & Top Stories – World News, US & Local | NBC News. Retrieved May 24, 2013, from http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/20095052
Murphy, K., Rojas, R., & Times, L. A. (n.d.). I-5 bridge collapses north of Seattle – latimes.com. Los Angeles Times – California, national and world news – latimes.com. Retrieved May 24, 2013, from http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-seattle-bridge-collapse-20130524,0,3319329.story
retval;}, e. (n.d.). 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis | StarTribune.com. StarTribune.com: News, weather, sports from Minneapolis, St. Paul and Minnesota. Retrieved May 24, 2013, from http://www.startribune.com/local/12166286.html