The collapse of a Skagit River bridge on I-5 last week should give all of us pause to think about our nation’s longterm strategy, including local infrastructure.
Stuff wears out, even steel bridges. That’s a dynamic that challenges the best intentions of priority pickers (also known as budget makers) in government who must continually weigh how to spend our money.
Such constant pressure over decades can even influence the standards by which supposedly objective measurers of safety decide on acceptable risks.
Consider that until rocks fell on people on a state highway a few years ago, the rocks looming over SR155 along Banks Lake met the standards. Then they suddenly didn’t, and money was found to bring down big rocks that looked risky under the newly reconsidered standards.
Now think about the old bridge over the Columbia River in Coulee Dam. It has suffered from very similar hits to those that caused the collapse of the Skagit River span (athough it’s a different design) and has been repaired — to meet a standard.
Engineers have been warning for years that our bridges and much other infrastructure needs repair. Economists argue that funding such projects now, while interest rates are at historic lows, makes a lot of sense.
That is unless you’re a member of Congress more concerned with posturing for politics than fixing real problems.
editor and publisher