Saturday, November 7, 2009

Remembering the Bridges

Two highway bridges in my area are scheduled to be replaced next year. In both cases, the fixes are coming slowly, and only after engineering inspections discovered that the bridges were no longer safe to use. Not far away, though, other bridges are not being replaced. These bridges are not officially abandoned, but the state does not have the money to rebuild them. One prominent river crossing that was taken out of service a decade ago is likely to wait another two decades before a replacement is put in place.

AOL News used one of the first stories in its new news service Sphere to remind Americans that bridges keep falling down, and that this year’s economic recovery spending won’t make a dent in the backlog of infrastructure projects. Transportation projects ended up being just a tiny part of the final bill, and half of Congress, it seemed, wanted to cut back even more.

As the Sphere story points out, the rate of infrastructure spending is less than half of what it was 50 years ago. We’re falling behind simply because we’re not budgeting the money. This is particularly vexing at a time when so many construction workers are unemployed. Building construction is not likely to make a comeback in its present form or anytime soon, so it would make economic sense to put more of these workers to work on projects like bridges.