Sunday, September 6, 2009

San Francisco Bay Bridge Will Stay Closed: Pretty Good Idea

"Workers find Bay Bridge crack; Shutdown could last"
CNN (September 6, 2009)

"Construction crews working on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in California discovered a crack that could keep the heavily traveled bridge closed beyond the planned Labor Day weekend shutdown.

"During inspection of the east span of the bridge, workers found a crack in one of the eyebars on the side of the structure, said Bart Ney, spokesman for the California Department of Transportation.

" 'It's a significant crack -- significant enough to have closed the bridge on its own,' he said in a news conference aired on the agency's Web site Saturday night.

"Ney said the crack has to be repaired immediately and acknowledged that the work may stretch past Tuesday when the bridge was scheduled to reopen...."

It's inconvenient, no question about it. Upward of a quarter million people drive across the Bay bridge each day, and there aren't any really short detours around it, that I know of.

On the other hand, it's probably just as well that the extra repair work be done now.

Back in August, 2007, part of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, dropped into the Mississippi River. About a hundred vehicles went in, but when the last of the bodies and wreckage was dealt with, we learned that only 13 people had been killed.

Then the finger-pointing and lawsuits started. The bridge was scheduled for renovation in 2020. On paper, before August 1, 2007, that had probably seemed reasonable. After the bridge collapsed 13 years ahead of the planned renovation, not so much.

Common Sense?

Somebody once quipped, 'common sense ain't all that common.' I think it depends on what bunch of people you use for your definition of what's common.

I think it's a good idea for salad bars to have sneeze barriers - and for moving parts to have some sort of railing or covering to keep people from getting entangled. By my standards, that's 'common sense.'

On the other hand, I don't see why a transparent jar of peanuts, with "PEANUTS" boldly printed on it, has to have a label warning that it may contain peanuts.

I could rant about the difference between manic efforts to protect people from peanuts, and the profound lack of attention paid to keep bridges from falling down - but I'd probably be preaching to the choir.

Speculation - but There May be a Lesson Here

One of the less-uncharitable assessments of why bridges and roads weren't being maintained adequately was that legislators are elected. Which means that their jobs are dependent on their constituents being positively impressed with them.

Having your name attached to a bill for a brand-new bridge, or even a new sewage plant, has more prestige than some boring maintenance job - that probably annoys a fair number of voters when they have to detour around it.

Lesson Learned, Probably

Kudos to whoever decided to go ahead with repairs on that San Francisco Bay bridge. It'll mean more expenses to pass along to the taxpayers, and probably a monumental traffic snarl: but I think that's preferable to waiting until the bridge falls down with people on it.

Here in Minnesota, it looks like someone down in the Metro twigged to why maintenance and repairs are a good idea. There's been a fair amount of work being done. Some, recently, with 'stimulus' federal funding: as advertised on signs along Interstate 94.

County Road 186 bridge over I-94, just southeast of town, was closed for a while. It doesn't have the traffic that the Bay bridge does, by quite a few factors of ten, but it did make for a long detour for folks going that way. The bridge is open again, and on the whole I think that the massive re-do was a good idea.

Interstate 35W Bridge Collapse: It Could Have Been Worse

"35W Bridge Collapse LIVE VIDEO ACTUAL Minneapolis Minnesota"

GumbaZar, YouTube (August 2, 2007)
video, 0:23

"(LONG VERSION) Minneapolis Bridge Collapse Minnesota Video"

sukisuki2005, YouTube (August 2, 2007)
video, 2:18

Sort-of-related posts: August 1, 2007, Interstate 35W bridge collapse:

2 comments:

Brigid said...

"The bridge had been up for renovation in 2020. On paper, that seemed reasonable at the time. After the bridge collapsed 13 years earlier, not so much."

I'm not sure, but I think there may be a little tense confusion here.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Brigid,

It seemed to make sense at the time.

Hmmm. I still know what I meant. Maybe I'd better try that again.

Thanks. ;)

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