Friday, August 03, 2007

Really, I Don't Know What to Say

I drive through a tunnel every day going to work. Well, thats a misstatement, on days where the people going into the tunnel haven't slowed down so much that traffic is backed up for miles I drive through a tunnel to work. Most days its backed up I think to myself "What are these people afraid of? Like the tunnel is going to collapse!" Today I wondered how many cynical people sitting in traffic in Minneapolis think to themselves "What are they afraid of? Like the bridge is going to collapse!"

I'd be funny if it weren't so not funny.

I can't say as I am surprised that what with all the effort the various governments have been making to protect us from Al Keda, that with our head turned one way the house would fall over. DO you think that was the terrorist's plan all along: distract them to the point they ignore their infrastructure and watch the whole country just fall over. Is it possible that by not maintaining our systems that we're letting the terrorists win? I swear Osama Bin Laden is thinking "Ha, what a black eye! And I didn't even have to leave the cave."

A story on NPR today said that 20% of all bridges on interstates were "structurally deficient." Apparently its not all that bad as that can mean that the shoulders are too narrow as well as mean it is listing and going to fall over. But still, thats one in every five bridges. There are people in Vegas that regularly bet those odds. Seems a little risky for the traveling public.

It'd be nice to think that someone in a position of power would see the New Orleans levies, the massive NYC power failure, a bridge or two just drop into a river and think maybe we're missing something. Maybe all that time they're spending reading our email and moving people around through extraordinary rendition could be put to better use. Perhaps the time and effort appearing before congress and saying "I don't recall" could be put to better use.

How about this: if the Bush administration agrees to spend on infrastructure in the next year an amount equal to what they spent in Iraq last month we will all, as a country, stop caring about who decided to fire those US Attorneys.

I shouldn't knock W exclusively for this though. (There's lots else to knock him for - its nice when poor sentence structure leads to fun.) Its not like the bridge actually fell over yesterday, it just finally fell over yesterday. The pattern of maintenance and inspection that lead to it falling over had been in place for quite some time.

We're more dependent that we realize on these infrastructure items. The flood and the blackout were hard to miss, catastrophic. But in reality its likely true that many things are in a position to bottleneck but for just one failure. What if the bridge to drop had been the Q in New Haven? That's three lanes each way and jammed pretty much all day every day. The alternates are two bridges , each one lane for each direction, both draw bridges to allow local river traffic, and both only accessible after driving a few miles through neighborhoods - in one case through a residential neighborhood.

The loss of the tunnel I drive through would run the entire traffic pattern right through a picturesque suburban neighborhood - that is until they make everyone get off an exit earlier so they drive through the more urban, lower income neighborhood. Want to see what that's like? They've been closing the tunnel for road work on the weekends. Without commuter traffic there are still miles of delays.

Still, it seems like the accident has already jump started a round of inspections. That seems to be the case in the aftermath of every incident. But its not the impetus we lack, its the follow through. We're coming into an election cycle. We're all too tired of hearing about foriegn policy. I don't want my heart broken over health care again. Let's make them talk about our vulnerable infrastructure.

1 comment:

Peg said...

Have you ever noticed the little blue button about halfway down on my sidebar? Report Card for America's infrastructure. It leads here: