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Action On Infrastructure Still Elusive and Still Neglected

Category: I-35 Bridge
Posted: 08/02/12 06:56

by Dave Mindeman

Five years ago one of the most horrific events ever to occur in Minnesota happened - the I-35 bridge collapse.

In the 5 years that has ensued, have we done what is needed to ensure the safety of the travelling public? The answer is not really.

Oh, we have made improvements....

When the Minnesota bridge collapsed in 2007, approximately 25.4 percent of the nearly 600,000 bridges in the U.S. were considered either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, according to the DOT. By 2011, the number dipped to 23.8 percent, still leaving nearly 150,000 bridges in the same categories.

But we still do not act with the urgency required to maintain our infrastructure. Congress does not act. There is a lot of self serving rhetoric and a lot of ribbon cutting for new bridges, but the nuts and bolts of maintenance is just not politically attractive enough to cause action.

Five years ago, 13 people died because of that. Sure, the NTSB whitewashed the incident into a "design flaw", but the bridge was classified "structurally deficient" for some time before the final collapse and there is a myriad of evidence that inspections gave clear indications that repairs were needed, yet put off for more "urgent" concerns. The system failed the victims.

In Minnesota, we continue to fall behind on MnDOT's budget. Billions of dollars in projects get scheduled and delayed. We complain about the summer construction season, but the truth is that we should be doubling what we are doing now.

A few years ago Republicans in the legislature punished members of their own caucus who dared vote in the interests of state infrastructure rather than follow a no new tax pledge. And that occurred only a short time after the bridge failure.

Is our politics always going to be that short-sighted? Do we have to have another horrible tragedy to take serious action?

The answer still comes up...I don't know.

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