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BRIDGES, PUBLIC POLICY AND IRAQ August 3, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in US Politics.
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Bridges are public goods. The bridge across the Mississippi connecting St Paul and Minneapolis that collapsed on Thursday was built in the 1960′s. It seems not to have been built with the engineering redundancy of for example the Brooklyn Bridge which was built in 1883. (There are reports according to the BBC that the Brooklyn Bridge is not safe have been denied by local officials.)
The Boston Globe editorializes:

MANY PEOPLE still remember the 1960s, when the Interstate Highway System was new. Those highways spanned rivers with airy steel and concrete bridges and opened up new places to live, work, and play. Forty years later, the concrete is stained and crumbling, the highways are clogged and subjected to stresses beyond their builders’ projections, and tragedy waits to happen, as it did over the Mississippi River in Minnesota this week.

The federal government and the states, particularly Massachusetts, need to correct the deterioration of what has become the circulation system of the nation.

Motorists crossing the Interstate 35W bridge would have had no inkling of the tragedy about to engulf them. The bridge, built in 1967, was rated “structurally deficient,” but so are thousands across the country, and Minnesota has one of the nation’s lowest defect rates. A 2001 study found “fatigue cracking” in the supports that hold up the bridge, but concluded it was safe. Surely the careful Minnesota Department of Transportation would have closed it if there was evident danger.

There are many other bridges, it seems, in Minnesota, Massachusetts and doubtless other places that have been designated as “structurally deficient”. Soon the question will arise: Where is the money to come from to either remedy or replace the existing infrastructure?

When that question is raised, Ron Paul has already given the answer – it is been spent in Iraq and elsewhere, in short on the Empire. The need to fund infrastructure might be expected to give pause and intensity to the question of what is more important. Perhaps then it will be easy to recognize that the Iraq War had nothing to do with combating terrorism, and perhaps the needs of Minneapolis and New York are more important than, for instance, the needs of Israel.

Update: 04 August 2007

As expected Nick Coleman writing in the Star Tribune(Minnesota),via Common Dreams,has risen to the bate. He observes the bridge collapse has taken place in bipartisan climate of reduced state taxes, other priorities, such as sports stadiums (bread and circuses):

At the federal level, the parsimony is worse, and so is the negligence. A trillion spent in Iraq, while schools crumble, there aren’t enough cops on the street and bridges decay while our leaders cross their fingers and ignore the rising chances of disaster.

And now, one has fallen, to our great sorrow, and people died losing a gamble they didn’t even know they had taken. They believed someone was guarding the bridge.

He will, I anticipate, among many to make the same connection.

ABC News Online reports an Australian engineer saying that we are not immune to same problems of aging bridges and lack of maintenance and repairs.

And then there are, of course, cartoons( via Truthdig):

before-it-collapses.jpg

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