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As we Texans have learned from experience, it doesn’t take an IQ much higher than room temperature to be governor of the Lone Star State. But surely someone was fooling with the incumbent’s thermostat when he responded to a recent report about the state of our state’s bridges.
Last year, 20 heavily-traveled spans in Texas were found to be “structurally deficient.” Yet, a year later, only one has been fixed and no work at all has been done on 17 of them. Hey, not to worry, declared Governor Rick Perry, because “structurally deficient” is nothing but “a bureaucratic term.”
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Maybe he could try explaining this semantic insight to the families of the 13 people killed last year when the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis collapsed. It, too, was categorized as structurally deficient, a term used by highway engineers to designate bridges that are so deteriorated they must be closely monitored or repaired.
How’s that monitoring going, you ask? After the Minneapolis crash, federal officials mandated an emergency inspection of all similar steel deck truss bridges in America. The National Bridge Inventory, compiled from state records, listed 756 of these—but it turns out that 280 of them were not steel deck trusses. Indeed, 16 of the listed bridges didn’t exist, 13 were wooden, one was for pedestrians, and one Maryland bridge actually was in Pennsylvania.
“The data is not as good as we thought,” explained a top federal highway official. Apparently not, which leads to the more urgent question of how many bridges are misclassified as another type when they’re actually steel deck trusses? The feds don’t know.
This is Jim Hightower saying… A few things we do know is that our bridges are old and deteriorating, and politicians of both parties have cravenly refused to fund essential maintenance, leaving us $140 billion short of the money needed just to repair our nation’s bridges.
“Only 1 of busiest deficient bridges fixed,” Austin American Statesman, July 31, 2008.
“Report: Repairing U.S Bridges would cost $140 billion,” http://cnn.com/2008/US/07/28/bridge.report/index.html