Skip to comments.Hagel-Dodd plan targets aging roads and bridges
Posted on 08/05/2007 6:01:52 PM PDT by jim_trent
Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Chris Dodd, D-Conn., have a proposal for improving the country's aging infrastructure an issue likely to get renewed attention due to Wednesday's bridge collapse in the Twin Cities.
Tragedies like the bridge collapse in Minneapolis will continue to happen in the United States until the country rebuilds its infrastructure, Hagel said Thursday.
"We've really got to get at it, because if we don't, we'll have more tragedies and more loss of life," he said. "It will cause officials to shut down roads, to shut down bridges . . . simply to ensure the safety of our cities."
Just hours before the Interstate 35W bridge fell, the two lawmakers unveiled a plan to create a National Infrastructure Bank. The independent body would be responsible for evaluating and financing significant infrastructure projects.
Such projects would include bridges, roads, water systems and housing properties.
States, towns, tribes or a combination of such entities would submit a project proposal to the bank. The bank would review the proposal and develop a financing package that could include direct subsidies, loan guarantees and various tax credit bonds.
The bank, which is intended to spur public-private partnerships, could issue up to $60 billion in bonds.
Dodd is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and Hagel is a committee member. The proposal has been in the works for years.
I just completed my refresher course on bridge inspection standards and thought its history was a good example of why the Federal Government constantly expands.
The number of bridges in this country increased dramatically in the 1950s and 1960s. Part of this was because of the Federal Interstate program, but other roads (state, county and city) were also being built in greater numbers than ever before.
Unfortunately, there was no uniform program of bridge inspection and maintenance for them. Very few places did inspect them (and most of them hired outside companies like the one I work for to do it). Even fewer did preventative maintenance. Consequently, there were more and more bridge failures.
Luckily, most bridge failures did not kill people. However, a few did. The 1967 Silver Bridge collapse that killed 46 people led to a provision in the 1968 Federal Highway Act to develop uniform bridge inspection standards. The first manual was released in 1970 for local governments to use. It was voluntary.
A few places adopted the standards. Most did not. Even among those who adopted the standards, VERY few did the maintenance that the inspections revealed the need for. This became a legal liability, so some places that had adopted the standards later dropped them.
The local politicians wanted to be seen turning over the first shovel of dirt or cutting the ribbon on a new bridge, but allocating money for maintenance was not high on their list of priorities. The odds were pretty good that a bridge failure would happen on someone elses watch, not theirs. So locally, money was only allocated for new construction, not inspection, not maintenance, and not repair.
Consequently, there were several high profile (meaning there was a loss of life) bridge failures between 1970 and 1987. So starting in 1988, Congress decided to offer a huge pot of money for inspection, repair, and replacement of bridges. Up to 80% of the cost for this kind of work is subsidized by the Feds. Naturally, that came out of our tax money. And also naturally, the money had LOTS of strings attached. It worked pretty good though. Almost every local entity is now lining up to get some of that money. Inspection, maintenance and repair of bridges is MUCH better than it was as little as 15 years ago.
I have absolutely no doubt that this could be done less expensively if done locally, but the fact is, the local politicians failed to do this. They were given many chances, and repeatedly (and I think deliberately) failed to do so. So the Federal Government stepped into the void.
I have also seen pretty much the same thing in roads and sewers. Local governments do NOT provide for adequate inspection, preventative maintenance (other than pothole repair which can be felt by the general public), or repair of public structures (neither in-house nor hiring of consultants). They wait until something breaks (which is when companies like mine are called in). It costs all of us in the long run.
How much did they include in last year’s budget for highways? Why do we need more? We just need better priorities.
As usual, Washington closes the gate only when the horses are out.
Make political hay while the sun shines.
I though so.
Privatized the highways, transponder everything. Anything a government can do, thieves can do cheaper and better.
Local DOT’s set priorities. Local politicians decide how much to spend. California is well known for collecting the most tax per capita for Transportation (for several years, in the top three of all 50 states) and spending the least on roads and bridges. They siphon off the rest to spend on gay parks, museums, or any number of other things.
All I am saying is that the local politicians have done a poor job of keeping their infrastructure up (literally in the case of bridges) and that is the EXACT reason that the Federal government increases its size and reach.
I hear people around here say over and over again that they trust local politicians more because they can keep a closer eye on them and vote them out of office if they perform poorly. By that standard, the people kind of people posting that have failed. The information on bridge condition is a matter of public record. Before this week did any of you know anything about it?
Most of the Federal Highway money goes to West Virginia so they can build highways to no where. Thank you Senator Byrd.
Hagel is desperate for a national light to shine on him because he wants to be President.
If I remember right, airport security was privately handled prior to 9/11. I forget. How well did that work out?
The simple fact is that unless the people who fail are fired, neither private or government employees are going to do their job.
BTW, there is a strong push to privatize highways. One of their things that the new owner is allowed to do is have a free hand to charge whatever the traffic (no pun intended) will bear. This means “congestion pricing”. There are lots of studies going on right now on how to maximize return with congestion pricing. Forget that you have already paid to build it. If you want to drive on it, get ready to shell out a lot more.
The issue isn’t budget, it’s priorities.
“New” is sexy, “Repair” is not.
...or Alaska, so they can build the Bridge to Nowhere.
If its from Hegel, its sure to be imbecilic. With Dodd as co-sponsor, its galactically imbecillic.
Actually, that's a good thing. If a bridge isn't safe we want the authorities to shut it down, then fix it, or replace it as appropriate.
He similarly thinks that it's a disaster when our military has to shoot an AlQaida member or other terrorist in Iraq so that a community may be safe.
We think that's good ~ AlQaida and terrorists should be shot wherever they are.
I wonder what would happen if we examined him and others of his mindset in the Senate using the Sense of Coherence Scale.
And THE BIG DIG.
Citizens, Pilots and air crew were, for decades, instructed by the Federal Government to be passive sheep and let the professionals take care of it. The FAA had years of warnings of change in tactics, and did nothing. So airlines like El Al, like SAAB did to cars, used security as a brand identity. If the FAA hadn’t insisted on one, ancient, poorly thought out method, air security would of been different. Anyways the crash in Pennsylvania showed what would of happened with untrained citizens. If citizens didn’t have decades of drilled passivity drummed into them, I am confident that 9/11 would of been different. I agree, firing people and contractors is a good tool. I think congestion takes care of itself. If people want to live in suburbs and all drive into paper shuffling centers, fine. What is the problem? They and their employers have all made their value choice.
Anything with Hagel Dodd name on it will damage this country a lot more than the condition of the bridges and highways as they are today.
SIBs are one alternative to gas taxes but have only limited use that has varied from state to state.
The ultimate alternative to gas taxes is user fees.
I am surprised that anyone on this forum would advocate GPS units on every car. That will make it easier for Big Brother to keep tabs on everyone.
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