Thursday, August 2, 2007

Minnesota Bridge Collapse Now Seems To Reek Of Official Sloth And Corruption

By Manifesto Joe

At first it seemed like one of those nasty and inevitable things one encounters in the news regularly: Monsoon and mudslide drowns and buries 3,000 in Bangladesh, 100 drown as Indonesian ferry sinks, Kansas tornado destroys entire town, California earthquake kills 7, and so forth, on a diminishing scale. But now, this piece of nastiness looks like something that could have been avoided if some people had just been doing their jobs.

This today from AP:

"MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota officials were warned as early as 1990 that the bridge that plummeted into the Mississippi River was 'structurally deficient,' yet they relied on a strategy of patchwork fixes and stepped-up inspections.

" 'We thought we had done all we could,' state bridge engineer Dan Dorgan told reporters not far from the mangled remains of the span. 'Obviously something went terribly wrong.'

"Questions about the cause of the collapse and whether it could have been prevented arose Thursday as authorities shifted from rescue efforts to a grim recovery operation, searching for bodies that may be hidden beneath the river's swirling currents.

"The official death count from Wednesday's rush-hour collapse stood at four, with another 79 injuries. But police said the death count would surely grow because bodies had been spotted in the water and as many as 30 people were still reported missing.

"In 1990, the federal government gave the I-35W bridge a rating of 'structurally deficient,' citing significant corrosion in its bearings. The bridge is one of 77,000 bridges in that category nationwide, 1,160 in Minnesota alone.

"The designation means some portions of the bridge needed to be scheduled for repair or replacement, and it was on a schedule for inspection every two years.

"Dorgan said the bearings could not have been repaired without jacking up the entire deck of the bridge. Because the bearings were not sliding, inspectors concluded the corrosion was not a major issue.

"During the 1990s, later inspections found fatigue cracks and corrosion in the steel around the bridge's joints. Those problems were repaired. Starting in 1993, the state said, the bridge was inspected annually instead of every other year.

"A 2005 federal inspection also rated the bridge structurally deficient, giving it a 50 on scale of 100 for structural stability.

"White House press secretary Tony Snow said while the inspection didn't indicate the bridge was at risk of failing, 'If an inspection report identifies deficiencies, the state is responsible for taking corrective actions.' "

Well, at least Tony Snow is doing his job.

I can't help but think that if the U.S. government had been paying attention to our crumbling infrastructure -- trying to maintain a decent system here, instead of giving tax bonanzas galore to the wealthy and sending our armed forces off to ill-fated foreign adventures -- a tragedy like this could have been avoided.

Instead, we get Tony Snow passing the buck back to the states. I suppose this is what comes of entrusting the levers of government to people who are ideologically hostile to it in the first place. Sort of brings back memories of New Orleans.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


Ron Southern said...

I've thought in the past that it's pure luck, not skill, that's keeping the terrorists at bay. Now, it seems that it's only pure luck holding the bridges of America up. This is decay; I don't think it's possible any more for the country to recuperate.

Manifesto Joe said...

I kind of foresee a slow decline into second-class world power status, like what happened to Britain starting with WWI. But what happened to them took longer. American hubris and overreach seems to have hastened the decline here. The next 20 years will probably tell the story.

cwilcox said...

Only if we let it happen guys! The American spirit can (and I would wager will) prevail. Snap out of it! When someone tells you you can't do something and you see no valid reason why not how does that make you feel? Now take that feeling times 300 million Americans and I don't believe there is anything eminant about the fall of America. If you don't like the way things are get active. Call Congress, attend town hall meetings, Keep writing this wonderful blog. (damn, I wish there was someway I could have embedded Kate smith singing "God Bless America" for you to hear as you read my comment, lol.) Think about the 100s of thousands who took to the streets over immigration reform last summer, think of the 04 election, we shall overcome!

Manifesto Joe said...

Oh, I'll keep the posts going here, and I presume you will too. The Congress didn't do anything Saturday to make me more optimistic; but there have been fights won in the last round, and games won in the final seconds or the bottom of the ninth. As Yogi said, it ain't over till it's over.

Anonymous said...

FuzzFlash sez...

The bridge collapse is a metaphor for what's happenin' to the USA. If the Feds spent money on routine infrastructure maintenance, then the warmongers from the MIC couldn't turn as big a mega-buck.

Manifesto Joe said...

Oh, most definitely, FuzzFlash. The main thrust of the U.S. right wing for over 25 years has been how people who already have vast fortunes could avoid taxes, so they could gather greater, ever-mounting portfolios. Anyway, the time for any reversal of this street-level decay is growing short. I am pessimistic, yet choose to carry on.

Marc McDonald said...

What I find amazing is that what "prosperity" we still have in America these days is nothing more than a credit card mirage, fueled by trillions of dollars from foreign central banks in East Asia.
Without this ocean of capital flowing in (to the tune of over $2 billion a day), America's government could no longer function and our economy would grind to a halt.
Our economy is nothing more than a giant Ponzi scheme, with our dollar propped up by foreign capital.
In the past quarter century, America went from being the world's biggest creditor nation to its biggest debtor nation.
However, (and maybe I'm alone on this point), I'm not so sure that it is really that big a disaster if the U.S. isn't the world's leading economic power.
I'm not really concerned about that...I'm much more concerned with our broken, corrupt political system and the loss of democracy in our nation. When you can no longer trust the voting system in a nation (and I don't), you've got bigger problems than how the Dow is performing.

Marc McDonald