Friday, August 03, 2007

Water Under Troubled Bridges

We've all been hearing and reading about the tragedy in the Mini-Apple. It's been covered, perhaps a bit too much, by all the media. A recent Minneapolis Star Tribune story on the recovery efforts and the investigation of the incident can be found here.

One of the early findings was that the bridge has been deemed "deficient" and in need of structural repair for some time. In fact, bridge inspectors around the country have said that there are hundreds of bridges around the various states that are in similar condition; some worse. Almost none have scheduled repairs to alleviate the situation. In the case of the fallen bridge, as I'm given to understand, crews were working on repaving the deck, but none were working on the bridge's structural strength.

Transportation officials and politicians from the various states are clambering over each other to get to the microphone to say there is no danger in America's bridges. A (fortunately) fairly small number of individuals in Minneapolis and St Paul hospitals might have a differing opinion.

I'm in this business. I've done testing on soils, concrete and other materials on several Stalag California bridges. They are (most of them, presumably) in fine shape when they first opened to traffic. Many of them are currently being strengthened to withstand more powerful earthquakes on the urban freeways. This after several bridges collapsed during earthquakes in recent years.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, more likely) most states never have earthquakes, or rarely. Looks like highway departments in these states, and the politicians who vote them funds, have decided that once a bridge is built, they're done.

Bridges deteriorate, just as do roads, buildings and utility systems. The day that a bridge is found to be substandard, repairs should be scheduled.

Politicians get their accolades when public works are opened and dedicated. Maintenance isn't sexy. In a world of finite resources, it gets a politician a lot more face time in front of their constituents when they "give away something new," than it does just to keep it in good repair.

Washington parasites are now talking about guaranteeing health care for all children (never mind the parents' responsibility) while ignoring the maintenance of the nation's infrastructure.

While watching a news program on MSNBC this afternoon, I happened to see a writer by the name of Nick Coleman of the Star Tribune who claims that the problem is not high enough taxes. I'll have to assume that he, as an honorable man, gives the state of Minnesota what he sees as a fair share of his salary, even if it's substantially more than the State requires.

What needs to happen is that the infrastructure should be privatized. Utilities should own and be solely responsible for their generators, power lines, etc. Water utilities should own and be solely responsible for their reservoirs, distribution systems, and all the attendant equipment.
Highways, roads and streets should be privately owned, either by entrepreneurs or by business or homeowners associations, who should be solely responsible for them.

You see where this is (finally) going.

Customers would know whom to hold responsible if the maintenance of the various utilities is substandard. They will vote with their wallets and with their feet. A town with unmaintained streets or poor utilities will be known as a ghost town.

As I've said many times before, the answer is always "privatize."

They've killed Freedom! Those bastards!

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

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