Democrats & Liberals Archives

Collapse of Infrastructure

These things don’t just happen. We don’t see structures like this collapse without there being some serious weakness or design flaw contributing to it. In my studies, I’ve come across some disturbing statistics about our infrastructure, and this may be sypmtomatic of the decay going on there. I have the feeling that this is going to be a bit of a wake-up call.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at August 1, 2007 10:17 PM
Comment #228107


The bridge was under construction with heavy traffic in two lanes before a Twins game, I don’t think it takes much of a stretch to realize that somebody screwed up.

How is this an example of our infrastructure falling apart because of decay? The bridge was less than 25 years old and was under constant construction… What information do you have to suggest this, what statistics are you talking about?

Posted by: Rhinehold at August 1, 2007 10:48 PM
Comment #228111

Correction, the news is now saying around 40 years old. Another station had reported the 25 year old age earlier in the evening.

Posted by: Rhinehold at August 1, 2007 11:03 PM
Comment #228120


There are tens of thousands of miles of highway with thousands of bridges that are reaching nearly 60 years of age, and every pothole bears witness to the lack of interest in spending the money to fix it.
And this is only the highway system.
Wasn’t there a bridge collapse on the interstate over the Arkansas river last year or the year before?

Last summer I drove the country end to end in a large truck. Most states had massive construction, and most of the other roads were pretty unbearable.

Posted by: Rocky at August 1, 2007 11:38 PM
Comment #228121

The bridge was built in ‘67, and handles a LARGE number of vehicles. They are now saying 7 confirmed deaths, yet there can be many still unaccounted for.
I lived in Sacramento when the Bay Bridge collapsed and the Nimitz Freeway pancaked. Even years later driving around the area caused chills and eerie feelings.
This ,so far, doesn’t indicate a hig number of fatalities, which is really miraculous. I don’t mean that even one is insignificant, but this had the potential to be lots worse.
So Stephen, I’ll bite…what do you see, or know, that is alarming?

Posted by: Sandra Davidson at August 1, 2007 11:38 PM
Comment #228122


Check your article for an “entry” link at the end.

I got here through the comments tab.

But, I agree with what you’re saying. Where I live it’s a matter of aging levies, a one hundred year old Court House, a 65 year old jail, deteriorating water & sewer treatment facilities, etc.

The infrastructure is disintegrating. But we, the working class, think our taxes are lower in spite of increased Social Security withholding that’s being used to balance a bankrupt budget! It’s wake up time! Well, Katrina was wake up time, now we’re just being stupid.

Posted by: KansasDem at August 1, 2007 11:39 PM
Comment #228125


I heard of an interesting way to pay back the government part of the cost of Katrina. Have those that required rescuing from New Orleans who did not heed the evacuation order be charged for that service directly.

Or should the rest of the country be required to pay for the rescuing of people that shouldn’t have been there in the first place? It’s not like no one knew it was coming like a tornado or earthquake…

Posted by: Rhinehold at August 1, 2007 11:47 PM
Comment #228126

I live in northern Oregon, and make the run every few months into central California, and while I bitch about the constant constuction, it also gives some comfort to know that it is always in the process of being upgraded and repaired. Crossing the bridge over Lake Shasta is actually “scary” with all the construction.
Interstate 80 from Sacramento up the hill to Reno is always a mess, due in part largely to the big rigs running with chains on. It seems to be long times between resurfacing that stretch.

Posted by: Sandra Davidson at August 1, 2007 11:50 PM
Comment #228129


That’s like relying on emergency rooms to provide healthcare. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip. OTOH we could renew the practice of debtors prisons.

If we do away with Welfare, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and add in the 17% of currently uninsured we should be able to imprison about 50% of the population. Then we could start a Soylent Green program and eliminate the need for crop subsidies.

Posted by: KansasDem at August 2, 2007 12:05 AM
Comment #228130

Yeah, if we didn’t have these instutionalized charity programs no one would be taken care of because Americans are by nature selfish.

BTW, our local food bank, Gleaners, had the copper tubing of their food freezers stolen by thieves two days ago. Original estimates had over 400,000 dollars of lost food but after looking into it further it appears that they lost only 125,000. By this evening over that amount of food and donations had come in.

People WANT to help those that need help. They don’t want to be forced to help those that choose not to help themselves.

And we know NO money went to those who lost property in New Orleans from private donations. 9/11 families were screwed as well.

But, unless we motivate people to leave a city that a hurricane is coming towards, how are we going to get people to vacuate the next time? I mean, if we prefer to use the tragedy as a political tool for the opposing administration instead of looking towards those who are responsible for their own actions, I suppose the expectation will be furthered that the government should be taking care of people who won’t take care of themselves.

But, we aren’t there yet right? I mean, no one would think that the federal government has a RESPONSIBILITY to provide anything to its citizens other than national defense and a stable infrastructure, would they?

Well, except for John Edwards. :P

Posted by: Rhinehold at August 2, 2007 12:27 AM
Comment #228133

Rhinehold, a very large number of those who didn’t evacuate didn’t have personal vehicles, and relied upon public transportation. And then there were those who could not afford to leave, literally lacking the funds to get a motel or accommodations once they did leave. But, screw ‘em, right? There fault for working low income jobs and not having gotten a college education back in the 1960’s or 1970’s, right?

No one warned these folks the levees would fail. And if they hadn’t failed, the devastation and risk would have been magnitudes less.

Do you feel the same about those who choose to live in Tornado Alley, or do you advocate evacuating the Eastern 2/3 of Oklahoma, altogether and declare it a national park? San Andreas Fault? How about the New Madrid Fault? Do you advocate relocating Wa. D.C. and the seat of government which could be devastated by its next rumble? It will happen, just don’t know when.

Post Katrina, I don’t believe rebuilding in the areas lower than the ocean should be permitted. That is just gigantically dumb in light of rising ocean levels. Massachusetts is already documenting miles of land and shoreline development losses due to the rise of just a couple inches.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 2, 2007 12:39 AM
Comment #228137


Your resentment regarding the poor is obvious.

Have you ever considered how many millions of Americans would be left in total poverty if Ron Paul were to have his way?

Have you ever even looked at the conditions so many Americans lived in throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s?

Maybe the thought of millions of Americans living in poor houses and poor farms and relying on soup kitchens for meals doesn’t bother you, but it bothers me a lot, and still someone will be paying for these services.

To think that charity will fill the gaps is to believe that Americans are more charitable now than they were in the 20’s or 30’s. Hah! BS!

Perhaps the greatest defining difference between liberalism and conservatism is the liberal belief that we’re all in this together, whereas the conservative prefers to believe we’re all on our own. Well, have fun with your beliefs. I ain’t in the market for none.

Posted by: KansasDem at August 2, 2007 1:07 AM
Comment #228138

Yeah, that’s exactly what I said, David. Screw’em! Why is it when someone suggests that people hold some responsibilty for themselves we get told that we are just saying ‘screw’em’? Oh yeah, that’s easier than tackling the hard issue…

I never had a problem with the federal, state and local governments, once an evacuation was declared, putting the people up or making sure that the people who couldn’t leave had the ability to do so. All I suggested was that those who refused to leave their houses when an evacuation was called should have to shoulder some of the blame/costs of their rescue.

Seems basic, doesn’t it? Yet, it would have helped had there been an actual ‘evacuation plan’ other than a DVD that told everyone that they were on their own if that were to happen…

All besides the point, to be honest. If we can’t even agree to hold those accountable for their own actions when a storm the size of Katrina is on its way to a lowlevel city and they are told to evacuate, then really we should just give up on the idea of personal responsibility…

Posted by: Rhinehold at August 2, 2007 1:09 AM
Comment #228140


A lot of these people went just where they were told to go! The Super-Dome, so I guess in your world you just shrug your shoulders and say, “let Ray Nagin” fix it, he screwed it up”!

And afterwards you can join hands with Barbara Bush and sing Kum Biyah while extolling the virtues of thousands of our fellow citizens living within arms length of one another. Well, many of them were poor anyway, who gives a shit!

Posted by: KansasDem at August 2, 2007 1:17 AM
Comment #228142
Your resentment regarding the poor is obvious.

Obviously not, since I don’t ‘resent’ the poor. Especially considering I come from a poor family…

Have you ever considered how many millions of Americans would be left in total poverty if Ron Paul were to have his way?

Most likely fewer than there are now.

Have you ever even looked at the conditions so many Americans lived in throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s?

Of course not, I’m a complete idiot. Why would I research something like that?

BTW, are you SERIOUSLY suggesting that we would return to the hoovervilles if we didn’t have forced charity in the US in 2010? That we aren’t a completely different society now than we were 80 years ago?

Maybe the thought of millions of Americans living in poor houses and poor farms and relying on soup kitchens for meals doesn’t bother you, but it bothers me a lot, and still someone will be paying for these services.

I work for several charities and work to better the lives of everyone I run across that needs help by trying to give them the help that they need. I can’t say the same for our social programs enacted by the federal government.

More people are likely to help out those who need help when asked to do so instead of being forced to do so. I know that may be a foreign thought to many democrats who think they are helping the poor by spending someone else’s money to do so, but until people understand that help has to be given, not taken by force, in order to do the most good then we are just going to keep sending more and more money to the money pit in washington instead of the real help that people need being given to them in the real world.

To think that charity will fill the gaps is to believe that Americans are more charitable now than they were in the 20’s or 30’s. Hah! BS!


First, not only are they MORE charitable, they are so while having between 25 and 50 percent of their paychecks taken from them for charity to being with. Couple that with the fact that we have corrected nearly all of the issues that CAUSED the great depression from occuring again and the ratio of those who work and can help to those that need help is far greater than it was in the 20s and 30s *and* as a result many more jobs and opportunities are available due to the diversity of our economy compared to 80 years ago, I do think that it is possible, especially if we use a combination of local and state direction of private charities to help those who need it. And we give those who need help counseling, education and mentoring, not just a check… Yeah. I think a new and better process can be thought of and implemented than the mess we have now.

Perhaps the greatest defining difference between liberalism and conservatism is the liberal belief that we’re all in this together, whereas the conservative prefers to believe we’re all on our own. Well, have fun with your beliefs. I ain’t in the market for none.

You haven’t the faintest clue what my beliefs are, obviously. I am a classic liberal, not a conservative.

And that’s not liberalism you are preaching, it’s progressiveness. The idea that rights exist that require the work of another to be provided. It’s illogical and goes against what true liberalism ever preached, but that’s the lesson of the progressives in our society today.

Posted by: Rhinehold at August 2, 2007 1:24 AM
Comment #228143
A lot of these people went just where they were told to go! The Super-Dome, so I guess in your world you just shrug your shoulders and say, “let Ray Nagin” fix it, he screwed it up”!

You get that from me suggesting that those who needed rescuing (the people at the superdome are not in that list, I am talking about the people who chose to say home) should help shoulder the cost of their rescue?

And afterwards you can join hands with Barbara Bush and sing Kum Biyah while extolling the virtues of thousands of our fellow citizens living within arms length of one another. Well, many of them were poor anyway, who gives a shit!

*rolls eyes*

What a stupid, moronic and hatefilled comment. Not that I am expecting any less from the current debate…

BTW, I live in Indiana and was on my way to New Orleans to help when I was turned back as I got close. I did that because I ‘hate the poor’.


Have you ever considered, for a second, that some people think that helping others is more important than politics? That you can have a different view other than being a progressive, where it is someone else’s responsibility to help someone and that of a conservative where is their responsibility alone to help themselves? That we should get out of the business of institutionalized help and back into the realm of personal help for people, most who need help by a mentoring progam, education, counseling, pride, etc. as oppose to a paycheck and 10 minutes of human interaction that they get when they collect it once or twice a month?

No, it appears that you are either ‘with us or against us’ when it comes to progressives and the poor. Have fun with that, I’d rather actually help people…

Posted by: Rhinehold at August 2, 2007 1:32 AM
Comment #228146

Wow, all the way from here,

“should the rest of the country be required to pay for the rescuing of people that shouldn’t have been there in the first place? It’s not like no one knew it was coming like a tornado or earthquake…”

to here,

“I’d rather actually help people…”

in less than two hours.

Yeah, I’m convinced you have a lot of love in your heart for your fellow man.

Just one question, why do we still have a homeless problem in the USA?

Posted by: KansasDem at August 2, 2007 1:56 AM
Comment #228147
Wow, all the way from here, to here,

in less than two hours.

No, I actually was there all the time. The assumptions were not on my part.

Yeah, I’m convinced you have a lot of love in your heart for your fellow man.

I could give a rats ass what you think of me. I know my own heart and motivations, you would rather make assumptions and accuse me of being a heartless bastard. Why would I place any value in your half-baked judgement of me?

Just one question, why do we still have a homeless problem in the USA?

Lots of reasons.

1) many are homeless because we quit trying to take care of our mentally ill citizens

2) we treat drug abuse as a crime and not a disease, getting the people the help that they need

3) not enough people actually trying to help the people that are homeless and instead think that since they are paying their taxes that they’ve done enough (no getting dirty)

4) it’s too hard to get a second or third chance in this country, especially when it comes to credit

5) we aren’t trying to educate people who need education, real education, about how to manage their lives so that they can start being self-reliant again

6) the notion of working hard is becoming a stigma, we tell people that its not their fault they are where they are, it’s those awful [insert group or party of choice] that are to blame

7) we have taken away the ability for these people to have pride in themselves by using them as political pawns

8) we don’t teach people how to avoid scams and borderline theft of the high interest loan business

That’s a beginning of the reasons I think we still have a homeless problem. Now, why do YOU think we still have a homeless problem in the USA?

I’m guessing it’s because we don’t spend enough taxpayer money on the issue? Money that bureaucrats in Washington are going to use to help themselves stay in power?

Posted by: Rhinehold at August 2, 2007 2:10 AM
Comment #228148

This was the recent book I read by Stephen Flynn on the matter that had me thinking that when I saw the bridge collapsed into the Mississippi.

The thing about most bridges is that it usually takes a serious failure to dump one of these things into the drink. This thing took tons of traffic, with all the stresses, vibrations, and loads for forty years, without collapsing. Why now? The work being done does present one seemingly obvious potential cause, but as one structural engineer said, it’s not typically just one thing. Even if the work being done initiated the problem, there’s often other factors, say corrosion or metal fatigue which might have turned one small failure from an isolated, fixable problem into a lethal chain reaction.

Once you get past a certain point, though, and enough support is knocked out, the other parts fail of their own accord, since they were built to hold up the other sections with their help.

I think the book above will provide some sense of the direction I’m going. I should warn folks ahead of time that I’m not blaming Bush exclusively for this, it’s more of a generational problems: we take the infrastructure we got for granted. But much of this, like the bridge which just collapsed is decades old, and the worse for wear. It’s a question of timing, and it’s question of whether we devote the resources to keep up what we got, and replace what we can repair economically when the time comes, before this time comes.

It’s a nice attitude to have about disasters, if you’re not in a disaster area.

Where to begin? Neither I nor Houston exist below sea level (yet), but our recent rather wet weather has made a mess of things, with a number of large floods. I still remember that other big event of 2001, which was the inundation of Houston by Tropical Storm Allison. Yes, large portions of Houston were underwater! Guess we should abandon billions upon billions of dollars of residences, businesses, infrastructure, and other things, and just pull up stakes an move North into mostly occupied lands (among them my own). Seriously, this is the dilemma of saying “screw it, lets move away form disaster zones”

Truth of the matter is, you can’t do that. No place is safe. Move someplace wet and you can get flooded, some place dry, and you get fires and heatwaves. Move North to escape the heat and you get cold temperatures, and nowadays a dose of unbelieveable heat in the summer. Move South to avoid the cold, and you run into hurricanes and thunderstorms. Move to the mountains and you get flash floods, wild fires in dry places, mudslides in…

Point is, on the basis of economy alone, you’re going have to risk building in some place that has risks. Ask the folks in Sacramento, whose city only avoids indundation by the levees around the river, whether they’re going to move someplace else. Do you know how many millions you’d have to move?

Even living below sea level is not necessarily dumb. Netherlands, anyone? The Dutch, though, have been smart about it, not relying on good luck and old earthworks to help them.

Trouble is, we’re cheap and complacent about these things, trying to pretend that if people were smart enough, they’d live risk free lives. Nobody can. We’re trying to pretend like all the roads, bridges, waterways, and other systems can last forever, no matter how much punishment we inflict on it.

The world is filled with risks, whether we like it or not, and we have to take some in order to live and make money. However, there’s well-managed risk and thene there’s unmanaged risk, and the policy under the conservatives, historically, has been to let businesses manage the risk, which as it turns out, they’ve down with a flare for the short-term and dramatic.

We have to start trying to figure out what the costs and risks of getting what we want will be.

The thing is, you’re acting as if we can work this out on an individual basis. Trouble is, the scope of these operations and the dependencies of working societies make trying to face this on an individual basis a problem. It’s a community problem, and unless you want to start politicizing who’s part of the community and whose not, you’ll have to try helping everybody.

Those mystified by a lack of a “continue reading” link should rest assured that they entirety of the post fit on the front page. A rare occasion to be sure, but I felt that the situation said most of what need to be said.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 2, 2007 2:12 AM
Comment #228149


I’m not suggesting anything other than saying that those who stayed in their homes when the evacuation call came should help shoulder the costs of their rescue. I don’t think that people should move from New Orleans, I love the city and am glad that it is being rebuilt. I agree that both state and federal governments screwed the people who live there by not making sure the infrastructure was safe and in full working order, but somehow the inferrence is that I think the poor are bad because of that one single sentiment.

My main goal is I want people to be motivated to leave the next time a disaster comes and we warn them to evacuate. Every hurricane that hits landfall, we see reporters talking to those who are going to ‘ride it out’ and we often end up having to go in and rescue them. At that point, shouldn’t we be saying ‘you ignored a state evacuation order, here’s your bill’? Make the bill dependant upon their ability to pay, I don’t care, just make it something to ensure that the next time people will think it makes more sense to leave than to stay.

Posted by: Rhinehold at August 2, 2007 2:19 AM
Comment #228158

Stephen Daugherty,

The bridge was built in 1967, it was inspected in 2005. The recommendation was to have the bridge replaced in the near future. The work being done was not structural work it was road surface and side rail work. Our good Governor Plenty vetoed our highway repair spending bill; the ink is not even dry on the veto. This is another case of our republican leaders with their, suck it dry and leave an empty shell government style. We must use the money for our corporate welfare programs (no bid contracts).
This should get some attention when you see the photos of the school bus on the collapsed bridge leaning against the guard rail. How many of you have children that must cross a bridge to get to school?????????? Maybe we should put our tax money to work in the correct places!!!!!!!!!!! It will take two years to replace that bridge, what do you think that will do to the local economy?????? How will they get their goods across the river now?????

When you run a business do you let your production equipment fall apart before you do any work on it????? Or do you do preventative maintenance?????

All I can say is Governor Plenty, those people on the bridge yesterday had to pay plenty for your veto!!!!!!!!! But you are so busy playing bush lapdog you failed the people of the state of Minnesota. If you do not want to move this state forward you should step down and let some one who has the best interest of the people of the state of Minnesota in mind!!!!!

Posted by: Outraged at August 2, 2007 10:00 AM
Comment #228159

Rhinehold Perhaps some that stayed in their homes have shouldered some of the costs if they have been contributing their 50% at the point of a gun. Are you saying that in addition to the taxes they paid they should pay the costs of privatized help in addition to the taxes. Thats a lot to ask when their economy, housing etc was trashed as a result of the diaster.

Posted by: j2t2 at August 2, 2007 10:04 AM
Comment #228160

The world is not always such a certain place, and even evacuation orders can underestimate the potential need for rescue.

There’s another factor, though, one you might want to consider. Such legislation might inadvertantly lead some to try and rescue themselves, fearing they’ll be slapped with a bill on top of all the other depredations of the disaste for their rescue.

How many more people would have died, if they knew that getting rescued was going to further impoverish them?

Furthermore, guess what you’d see on the evening news? A little old lady whose just lost everything complaining about how the government’s tacked on a bill for rescuing her. I know Libertarians and Right-Wingers like to be the ones who are cruel to be kind, but I can pretty well guess the political mileage your opponents would get out of that.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 2, 2007 10:09 AM
Comment #228162

Kansas Dem said to Rhinehold: “Yeah, I’m convinced you have a lot of love in your heart for your fellow man.”

Your comment critiques Rhinehold, not his comments. Observe our Rules for Participation or lose comment privileges here.

Posted by: Watchblog Managing Editor at August 2, 2007 10:16 AM
Comment #228163


an interesting idea in theory, but unworkable in reality.

the cost of ascertaining who among the survivors elected to stay voluntarily (assuming it is even possible to do so) would surely far outweigh any mitigating effect on the costs associated with katrina that your solution is intended to produce. charging those who could not afford to leave would not only be wrong, it would also be a futile effort for obvious reasons.

because it would cost taxpayers more to identify and extract payment from voluntary victims for services rendered, your idea is ultimately an exercise in punishing said voluntary victims for disobeying the evacuation order… a personal choice which, while very foolish, i would not deny them. next time, have them sign a waiver.

Posted by: diogenes at August 2, 2007 10:34 AM
Comment #228165

Really horrible situation. There are at least thirty people missing, and many cars (with people inside them) that are submerged in the water.

Posted by: Adrienne at August 2, 2007 11:33 AM
Comment #228167

Thanks Stephen, and I do see where you’re going.
You hit a spot talking about Sacramento and the levees….as a many-year resident of Sacramento, I can tell you that I spent lots of those years being thankful that we were up just high enough to keep dry. For those who don’t know, Sacramento is a delta town, and surrounded by hundreds of miles of water trying to make its’ way into the San Francisco Bay. The levee system there is so terribly in need of total repair/replacement that just isn’t happening. Sandbagging is just a poor excuse for a bandaid, and when the levees are breached, there is the Yolo Causeway, to catch part of it.
I just can’t remember a time when we were able to get any kind of funding to do what was needed to stabilize those levees.

Posted by: Sandra Davidson at August 2, 2007 11:44 AM
Comment #228168

NY Times reports:

A 2001 evaluation of the bridge, prepared for the state transportation department by the University of Minnesota Civil Engineering Department, reported that there were preliminary signs of fatigue on the steel truss section under the roadway but no cracking.

It said there was no need for the transportation department to replace the bridge because of fatigue cracking.

Investigations are underway. The idea that truss bridge experiencing steel truss fatigue poses no threat, is absurd. It will be interesting to learn of the political connections to the person responsible for that decision that metal fatigue absent cracking is no concern.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 2, 2007 11:50 AM
Comment #228169

A thousands American bridges are now limited by posted tonnage restrictions and reduced lanes, as compensatory response to their state of decay. And many more on rural and country roads.

David Dieteman wrote of the deplorable condition of our roads and bridges in Feb. 2001:

The administration’s files show that the biggest laggard in replacing such faulty structures is the federal government. It owns 1,322 of them. The National Park Service alone is responsible for 914 badly maintained bridges, making it the biggest laggard’s biggest laggard. Park Service officials don’t deny it. “We actually focus our money on bridges at the sacrifice of our roads. But we have a $169 million backlog of bridge work and a $3.26 billion backlog on roads. By backlog, I mean money we need and don’t have,” says Mark Hartsoe, the Park Roads Program Manager.

In Feb of 2001, the Bush administration and Congress were debating tax cuts. Not bridge and road infrastructure maintenance and repairs. What has the Administration done about it since then? Its in a memo protected by Executive Privilege somewhere, I am sure. But, the Congressional record of expenditures and state of roads and bridges I am sure will be pulled out in coming days.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 2, 2007 11:59 AM
Comment #228171

Here is an excellent site that has been recording and calling for infrastructure investment and warning of failures since at least 2001.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 2, 2007 12:35 PM
Comment #228173

MSNBC is reporting a contingency of “high level” responders going in, including Laura Bush, who they say, was already scheduled for an appearance in some capacity. Think they said this is to be the site of the Repub. national convention, so should be some interesting things coming out of this.
Why do we suppose the response here is so much faster than we saw in N.O. ??

Posted by: Sandra Davidson at August 2, 2007 12:48 PM
Comment #228178

Seriously, Sandra?

Posted by: Rhinehold at August 2, 2007 3:08 PM
Comment #228179

I find it very interesting to read of the hand wringing over aging infrastructure while our politicans continue to spend the pork for their favorite project to buy the local vote. The danger to innocent life is obvious and readily seen on our T.V.’s. Members of Congress of both parties should be (but are not) ashamed of their behavior. Will anything change? No! Congress will appoint a committee to study the problem and continue with business as usual. All the lobyists will continue to have the ear of politicians to ensure the interest they are working for get what they want. When will we wake up and elect people who serve us? Never, as long as we continue to be ensnared in liberal/conservative arguments with each other. We’re stupid to play this blame game and the “I am good, you’re bad” BS. We can achive anything if we work together. Measure you’re political brain and heart by asking who will this help! If it doesn’t help your neighbor don’t support it. If it helps only you, don’t support it. Today’s choices are tomorrow’s reality.

Posted by: Jim at August 2, 2007 3:22 PM
Comment #228183

I for one find it a little unseemly to start trying to score political points or make large political claims over a tragedy like this while they’re recovering victims and so little is known so far about the causes.

Obviously something major went wrong, and those problems need to be addressed in time.

At this point, however, it’s just not clear that any amount of appropriated funds or political will to fix infrastructure is going to head off problems when the experts and engineers actually examine a structure and tell you (as happened in this case) that it’s safe.

Sadly, no amount of money or political measure can ever eliminate the possibility of human error. I can’t help but think of the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge (“Galloping Gurdy”) which was built and then collapsed in a strong wind just a few months after it opened.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 2, 2007 4:05 PM
Comment #228184

After viewing the video of the actual bridge collapse on the web, it fails at the transition point where the span attaches to the piers. The reason it failed at this point is because the span is allowed to deflect and return with the variation in the traffic flow load. At the pier point the bridge is held ridged while the span is allowed to flex under the variation in traffic flow. That is the point where the most fatigue would accrue. After the bridge fails at this point it is no longer a complete structure. The load then is transferred to the remaining structure in the fashion of a shock, which completes the total collapse. The bridge repair was only a road surface and rail project, not a structural repair.

Posted by: Outraged at August 2, 2007 4:14 PM
Comment #228185

There is plenty of money. Priorities are the problem. What is the budget in Minnesota for greenbelts and such? Totally meaningless expenditure. So your median looks nice. Here in CA we have lovely landscaped medians and freeway leeways that look upon the potholes. Spend the money where it needs to be spent, safety, education, transportation, not prettying up.


Posted by: JayTea at August 2, 2007 4:34 PM
Comment #228191

The problem with the Tacoma Narrows bridge was one of a second order issue become a first order issue. Bridges use to have to be more overbuilt, so they were stiffer for their size than before, and winds, the major contributor to the Tacoma Narrows collapse, were at best a secondary concern. What happened with the Tacoma Narrows bridge is that the turbulence from the winds along the bridge started vibrating the bridge like the reed in a woodwind, reaching the right resonant frequency so that the road deck itself started vibrating. At some point, it became too much for the bridge to handle and down it went.

However, this was a learning experience. Every human error offers the opportunity to learn something. They chose to stiffen bridges of this length and relative lightness, and Tacoma Narrows hasn’t repeated itself.

On the subject of the inspections, I think it would help to know what the culture is. It may be, as with the shuttle, that people settled into a sort of learned helplessness, not making nose because it was not a problem the politicians above were really interested in dealing with. What is clear is that disasters like this often come when folks becomes more interested in politics for its own sake, and spending the money for things like this on fru-fru stuff, than when people adopt a serious attitude toward safety and integrity.

I don’t mind people scoring political points if their method is to do something about this. I mind if their interest drops off. I mind if the measure of their commitment to making these things work is the number of cameras covering a disaster.

My notion of politics is that it is at its best when it serves the needs of the public, and that we pundits of the web and elsewhere do our best service when our focus is on supporting good policy before partisan politics. The successes of politics are dust and ashes in the scheme of history. The successes of policy are what keep a country like ours from becoming history.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 2, 2007 5:33 PM
Comment #228205

Well, I agree.

And if there are actually political factors behind this particular event, there’s no reason not to make the debate a political one eventually. My objection is to the political stuff I’ve been hearing (not so much on this site, but elsewhere), from both the right and the left, at a time we know so little about what actually occurred.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 2, 2007 9:08 PM
Comment #228225

Back to infrastructure(Rhinehold,you little devil) Its clear we need to maintain and upgrade the nations highways,waterways and bridges. We can do. I live in CA. At one time our highway system was the best. Now it is like some tired old whore. I suggest we get much of the needed funding from the overblown defese budget. Just one example,each B1 cost 2.2 billion dollars.They are a cool plane ,granted,but how many bridge retrofits is that and really how many do we need. They were designed to penitrate the air defenses of the USSR presumably after a first strike.How about the Osprey,300 plus million apiece. They are really cool also but that is a hell of a lot of money for a fast ass helocopter (the safety record is not very good either). At least the Osprey might have some value against our advesaries. Star wars is another boondogle.How many nuclear missiles do we need for deterence? Most americans say somewhere around a hundred. We have 10,000.Five thousand of which are on constant alert and can be fired in minutes. This cost a bundle. Any country out there that might be willing to risk survival of only a thousand nukes hitting it?NK,China,Iran?A strong defense is one thing. Getting hosed is quite another.
A good start would be to classify a defense procurement bribe as high treason,a capital offense. If we did that there are officials of both parties that would tremble not to mention a few members of the Pentagon brass would seek early retirement.

Posted by: BillS at August 3, 2007 12:31 AM
Comment #228238

“Kansas Dem said to Rhinehold: “Yeah, I’m convinced you have a lot of love in your heart for your fellow man.”

“Your comment critiques Rhinehold, not his comments. Observe our Rules for Participation or lose comment privileges here.

“Posted by: Watchblog Managing Editor at August 2, 2007 10:16 AM”

Point well taken. A combination of tiredness, and anger over Rhinehold’s comment, “What a stupid, moronic and hatefilled comment”, had an adverse effect on my objectivity. That’s exactly why I took a little “breather”.

My apologies to Rhinehold and all.

Posted by: KansasDem at August 3, 2007 10:24 AM
Comment #228243

I said it a year ago. The interstate highway system was the biggest pork barrel project in the history of the world. Endlessly maintaining and rebuilding this system, especially the bridges, is an enormous waste of our country’s assets. It benefited a lot of real estate speculators, making some land more valuable.

In Florida, many bridges have been built for only that purpose, at public expense, to benefit developers. I knew someone who lived on Marco Island before there was a bridge, they got there by boat, the same way you get to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard.

Posted by: ohrealy at August 3, 2007 11:06 AM
Comment #228248


Again, sorry I “personalized” my comments night before last. Doing so is never excusable and certainly inappropriate.

Re: the homeless situation. You actually made a pretty good list. I suspect the individual reasons for being homeless are nearly as numerous as the individuals themselves. You actually did predict fairly well what my response would be.

It’s as simple as “holes” in societies “safety net”. You’ll quite often hear people use the term, “slipping through the cracks”. And I do believe that only the government can effectively address such a problem, although it’s been remiss to do so, IMO in large part because even many of the truly charitable look upon the majority of the homeless as the dregs of society.

You seem to actually comprehend the depth and complexity of dealing with issues such as mental illness and addiction. Sadly far too many people still view such problems as personal shortcomings or character flaws. You are right that money alone will not fix the problem. I’m quite certain that far too many tax dollars and charitable donations both end up being spent on booze and illicit drugs.

In fact I’ve long advocated that all recipients of government aid should be required to submit to the same level of substance abuse testing as any government employee or contractor. Still, that does little good without adequate treatment facilities. It’s a very complex problem and IMO it requires a response of such enormity that only our government can harness and direct the resources to pull it off.

But, I know you’ll disagree :^/

Posted by: KansasDem at August 3, 2007 11:27 AM
Comment #228274

ohrealy, and just how would you propose our multi-trillion dollar economy transport goods and services in lieu of the Interstate Highway system, efficiently?

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 3, 2007 4:20 PM
Comment #228282

David R R: Canals, railroads, and regular highways that do not need a bridge to cross every possible intersection, to prevent a million roads from becoming dead ends. Paved fords are also a good idea in rural areas, over smaller rivers and streams. If you are going to build a bridge, why not make one that will last a thousand years instead of forty?

Posted by: ohrealy at August 3, 2007 5:48 PM
Comment #228290

My thinking is that politics needs to be less about getting people elected, and more about negotiating between those who represent different parts of our society. It also needs to be tied to the real world, and getting real world results.

The IHS can be abused for porkbarrel purposes, but it has served a critical function for the growth of our country.

I find your suggestions impractical. Canals, of course, require waterways nearby. Railroads are pretty inflexible in their direction, and few citizens can afford their own private transportation on one. As for Regular Highways? They’re what we had, and that system is as byzantine and complex as the IHS, and no less vulnerable to the depredations of time. Paved Fords are nice, so long as it doesn’t rain, and you’ve got the vehicle for it.

As for making a bridge last thousands of years? Who knows. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the roads and bridges that have lasted that long so far never had to deal with the forces and loads a bridge like this are forced to handle.

Another thing to keep in mind is the complexity of the factors that go into design. You can’t always predict every problem.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 3, 2007 9:06 PM
Comment #228324

Ohrealy, the Minneapolis bridge’s design did not have redundancy built into it. Today’s bridge designs do, meaning if one finite element of the bridge fails, other finite elements keep the bridge intact.

This is precisely why a major investment in our infrastructure has been called for by engineering associations for the last decade and more. We now have designs that will last far longer and increase safety, even when a finite element of the bridge fails, affording maintenance repairs of that finite redundant element without failure of the entire bridge occurring. Such designs vastly increase the lifespan of bridges over the non-reduntant element designs of the 1970’s and before.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 4, 2007 7:49 AM
Comment #228370

the thing that makes me laugh at all this talk is the fact that noone remebers that tug boats going up and down the MS river causes quite a bit os the chipping away at the bridges especially when they hit he damn things all of the time b/c so many of these pilots are not experiencend and/or qualified enough to evade the collumns and structures of most of the bridges on the river.

Posted by: r at August 4, 2007 7:39 PM
Comment #228423

There are just too many bridges on the interstate system to be affordable to maintain. This system mainly benefits rural areas, and can never meet the transportation needs of urban areas. Vast stretches of land are used in some smaller urban areas for this system, that are mostly in use during the morning and evening rush hours. Wasteful and expensive.

I lived in FLorida when something larger than a tugboat hit the Sunshine Skyway bridge, so I guess we have to eliminate all shipping as well as railroads, canals and regular highways, and just drive around in Arab oil fueled cars 3 times the size of what we actually need.

The Erie Canal is the reason that NYC became the economic capital of our country in spite of geography. Other canals made water supplies viable for large urban development, to say nothing of the intercoastal and every other canal connecting bodies of water.

The railroads are the reason that everything more recent is where it is. A whole infrasctucture for our country already exists in all those places with the numbered streets. This is a resource that is being wasted.

The regular highways were a good resource until local development stretched out to the bypasses that were built to avoid midtown traffic in most towns. Drive down hwy 436 in Swimminhole county FL and ask yourself why all that development is there. How wide is wide enough for a road? Is ten lanes in each direction enough or do we need more?

If you are going to build a bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, I would think you would want to build a really good one. The town and the river are both going to be there for a long time. Having to replace a bridge will obviously be more expensive than just building it right in the first place.

People seem to be claiming that we did not know how to build bridges 40 years ago, or that we are allowing more or larger vehicular traffic than the bridge could handle. Maybe people then thought we would all have our jetpacks by now.

Bridge construction seems pretty simple to me. If it is not on arches or suspended from upside down arches, then it is a temporary piece of garbage that will have to be rebuilt at someone’s expense, or limited in access to those paying tolls.

Posted by: ohrealy at August 5, 2007 3:04 PM
Comment #228476

“There is crumbling infrastructure all over the country, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who heads the Senate panel that controls transportation spending, said the Bush Administration has threatened vetoes when Democrats try to increase such spending.”

“White House deputy press secretary Scott Stanzel, accusing the Democrats of using the bridge collapse for partisan purposes, said Bush had increased funding for federal highways by about 30 percent during his administration. The president had threatened to veto legislation not over highway funding but because of billions of dollars in excess funding in other areas, Stanzel said.”

So, the blame game begins!
Having researched a bit on Minnesota, I think Republicans may take a hit on this one in the State, though they may not be at fault at all.
I found some information from left wing Minnesota blogs that criticized the Republican Governor for refusing some Federal funds for transportation, though I don’t know if this is true considering the source.
I also found that surface condition ratings of highways in Minnesota had been improving pretty dramatically from 1995 to 2000, then deteriorated somewhat as the State began using transportation funds for highway construction and expansion rather than surfacing improvements.
I also found that the Democrats had full control of the state House of Representatives and the State Senate up until 1999, when Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives. The House of Representaives went back to the Democrats in 2006, according to my research.
I believe since the people of Minnesota probably have seen the worsening conditions of the surface of the highways during the Republican Administration, they will probably receive the brunt of the criticism.
However, resurfacing and actual structural deterioration are two separate issues, with structural deterioration taking a much longer time to develop. Yet, now every time the people of Minnesota, and perhaps elsewhere, hit a pot hole, they will be thinking about the deteriorating conditions of their bridges and highways, rather than the new construction projects undertaken for economic expansion.
I guess the real lesson is that though expansion is good, one still must take care of that which is existing.
Somebody definitely blew it!
Now, the real debate, however in Minnesota is the method they will use to replace many of their bridges that are in need of being replaced. I read that many want to replace most of the smaller old bridges with concrete culvert type structures. This would be more cost efficient. However, this also obstructs fish migration somewhat, and environmentalists may not be too happy about it, thus, opening up another can of worms in that land of a thousand lakes!


Posted by: JD at August 6, 2007 1:12 AM
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