On Sunday June 21st of this year, a truck carrying a woman and 3 other occupants to visit her father for Father's Day was crossing a bridge on a local highway in Hunt County, TX. For no apparent reason, the bridge collapsed beneath her truck
. The occupants were able to escape the partially submerged truck with help from bystanders.
Nearly one month later in western California, on Sunday July 19th, a truck was driving on I-10 headed east. As the truck was crossing a river, the bridge collapsed beneath it
, leaving the truck stranded precariously. The injured driver was rescued.
What makes this more disturbing is that the bridge was still operational even though it had been flagged as "functionally obsolete". In fact, well over 10% of ALL the bridges
in the US have been flagged as "structurally deficient". Even more than that have been flagged as "functionally obsolete" (like the one that collapsed in California). Nearly 24% have been flagged as "Defective". That means that 48%
of our bridges are desperately in need of repair. Statistically speaking, that means every time you drive over a bridge, there's a 50% chance it could collapse beneath you at any time.
You'd think that Congress would be falling all over themselves to do something about this. They are always trumpeting that they're working to keep Americans safe. They know that Americans need jobs. It seems like a no-brainer. When it's a Republican-controlled Congress, however, "no brainer" is a perfect description.
In 2 days, we will run out of funds to repair and maintain our highways. Two... short... days...
It's not like highway funding is a surprise - it's a well-known function of government. But like everything else, it gets pushed down to the wire, as Republicans try to slap on amendment after amendment in the highway bill, including one to repeal Obamacare
. If that seems shortsighted, stupid, galling, and irresponsible, well - yes... it is. It's aggravating enough when Congressmen and/or Senators amend and change a good bill until it's bloated and unrecognizable, but when it gets to the point of compromising our safety for political ideology, it's a bridge too far (pun intended).
Meanwhile, like every other embattled funding bill, Republicans are saying we can't afford it
. Like our larger funding bills, they create stop-gap bills to limp from one crisis to the next. Right now they are proposing a 3 month bill
to buy time to create a more comprehensive bill. They had a 5 month stop-gap bill in the Senate, but the House shortened it to 3 months. Why? It makes no sense. Even 5 months doesn't provide enough time for long-game planning for any real projects.
The U.S. government wastes a lot of money on stupid things - rebuilding our infrastructure is not one of them. When a lot of our modern infrastructure was originally built, the middle class boomed. That infrastructure is now becoming decrepit and needs repair and replacement. The jobs these types of projects will create will help the economy, bring down unemployment, and increase tax revenues. Republicans hate government-created jobs, but the private sector is not going to rebuild roads and bridges unless someone pays them, and that has to be the government.
This is not going to get better without Congress taking action. That they don't is enough to drive anyone to drink. Just don't drive over a bridge - the life you save may be your own.