Thursday, August 02, 2007

let's Not Politiciize This One

The news out of Minnesota is grim. A major bridge across the Mississippi River has collapsed, at rush hour, with about 50 cars ending up in the river, according to initial reports. Our prayers are with the hurting.

The sight is horrific, and the venue familiar to almost anyone who has traveled the Interstate highway system. This disaster could happen at any of St Louis, Peoria, Biloxi, New York, Seattle, Miami, Louisville, Davenport,
or Pittsburgh, to name only a few. I didn't mention Oakland, because it already happened there.

But please, don't turn this into a chance to complain about how much more needs to be spent on bridges, or who is to blame, or why President Bush allowed this to happen. Don't ask the Presidential candidates for their opinions, don't blame the guy who decided that, physics being physics, the bridge was going to stay up.

Because people don't make such decisions lightly. Or at least, they won't any more.

And the first person who says the government did it is a rotten egg.

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KnightErrant said...

I can think of six possible reasons for a solid man-made structure like that bridge to collapse.

1) Deliberate human attack (terrorists, Canadian air force bombing mission)
2) Act of God (earthquake, tornado, flood)
3) unavoidable accident (such as a barge breaking loose its moorings and hitting the bridge)

There is no evidence that any of these things happened. That leaves:

4) shoddy construction
5) slipshod inspection
6) knowingly avoiding needed repairs (The principle reason for not making repairs is a lack of money)

From initial reports I am leaning towards number 6. In the final analysis, the bridge was a government structure and the government was responsible for its maintenance. That means at some point, the issue will have to be political.

All that said, I agree that a knee-jerk blaming of Bush (or Clinton) is quite silly.

Loren Heal said...

I can't argue with any of that, Knight, except for the assumption that someone knew, or should have known, that the repairs were needed.

It's highly possible that, short of taking the bridge apart bolt-by-bolt, there was no way to know it would collapse. I've heard two civil engineering professors close to the bridge say that there was no indication that the bridge was a hazard. They also both said that the way this bridge came down was unusual, so in all likelihood the problem that caused its collapse was also unusual.

Loren Heal said...

But now I have read Eric, and stand corrected: the bridge was declared "structurally deficient" in 2005, so we will indeed be subjected to a deluge of finger-pointing.

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