Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Failed Bridge.... One of Hundreds

After the "Interstate Bridge Collapses Into Mississippi River in Minneapolis," (WaPo).... today, rescue crews resume their grim task of searching for bodies within the dark river waters.

Thirty souls are reported missing. The known dead number four, but the grieving city is braced for that number to soar. Scores were injured.

A shaken Gov. Tim Pawlenty tried to paint the tragedy as an unavoidable event, saying that the bridge had been inspected in 2005 and 2006 and that "no immediate or noted structural problems" were found.

A self-serving statement. The whole truth isn't so rosy.

True, the Minnesota Department of Transportation over the past decade have detailed "poor fatigue details on the main truss and floor truss system," of this failed bridge, but, they didn't see any problems with fatigue cracking "in the foreseeable future."

One wonders if political prompting played a role in this assessment, thus deflecting tax revenues from an expensive bridge project. Because.....

A stricter federal inspection was more dire. A federal rating in 2005 gave this bridge a rating of 50%, or, "Poor," meaning replacement may be in order. And, on their structural scale of 1 to 9, nine meaning like new, this heavily traveled bridge.... up to 200,000 vehicles each day.... was given a four.

There was work being done on the bridge at the time it collapsed. Pawlenty said the bridge had been undergoing "cosmetic" repairs, including resurfacing and replacement of lighting and guardrails. Frosting on the crumbling-cake infrastructure.

And, tragic warning. In the words of a government official today.... there are hundreds of bridges throughout our country in the same condition as this one.

Life is nothing but choices.

The choices of state governments on how to spend taxpayer money.... on our crumbling infrastructure, or on politically popular items like stadiums and eye-wash projects.

The choices of the federal government on how to allocate tax monies... our government chose, for example, a "bridge to nowhere" .... a $223 million bridge from a tiny town in Alaska to Gravina Island.... population 50.

And, in March of 2003, President Bush, the self-proclaimed Decider, chose to spend our treasure.... to date over $600 billion.... on his trumped-up invasion of Iraq, rather than on the failing infrastructure and border security needs of our nation.

Yesterday, travelers over the doomed I-35 bridge in Minneapolis paid for these callously reckless political decisions with their lives.

Today, there was to be a groundbreaking ceremony for the new taxpayer-funded multimillion dollar Twins ballpark in Minneapolis.

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