Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Band Aids as Infrastructure

What all has to happen for this country to start taking infrastructure seriously?

Though the Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland is closed indefinitely, at least it didn't straight up collapse (like some levees or other bridges you may have heard about recently).

The telling quote is this one: "The rod that fell Tuesday was erected last month during an emergency repair job. It was holding in place a saddle-like cap that had been installed over a cracked link discovered over the Labor Day weekend."

Glad to know this problem was caused by trying to quick-fix another problem.

Is this how we do things now? Risk a "5,000 lb piece steel falling out of the sky" during the evening commute becasue we don't have the stones to properly maintain and fix things when problems arise? Doesn't anyone remember the "stich in time" saying?

You know why the decision was made for a quick fix in the first place. A REAL fix would cost a lot of money, and cause significant inconvenience. Government spending money is bad. Inconveniencing commuters is also poltically unpopular.

How's that working out for you now, folks?



Dante said...

Yeah, they really hate to spend that government money... IN CALIFORNIA?! Are you kidding me, Pat? California has wasted so much government money they can't afford a cheeseburger right now, let alone major highway repair. Besides, they spent a fortune on that bridge. And it still has problems. Next time you get on your government infrastructure high horse, try to at least make sense.

Leigh C. said...

It's true. California's money woes are so bad, at this rate they'll most likely be selling the Bay Bridge to try to repair it. Really.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

It ain't about government freely spending money. I think one of the few things we all agree is that government spends money at a rather astronomical rate.

The part about the infrastructure is the priorities. The problem I think governments have spending money on real infrastructure maintenance comes down to their misplacement of priorities - they'd rather spend the money elsewhere.

This leads to cheap infrastructure maintenance because governments tend to take infrastructure for granted.

(As an aside, my word verification for this comment is "dante")

Dante said...

Is $5.5 billion not "real" enough for you? That's what they're currently spending on upgrading the Bay Bridge. As to why they put a bad aid in place to fix things, I don't know that for sure. They're doing some sort of earthquake-proofing on the bridge right now. I wonder if that has anything to do with the decision. Why they made the repair the way they did is certainly a question that deserves an answer though.

(As an aside, my word verification for this comment is "patpickedareallybadexampletomakeapointaboutgovernmentspending")

DADvocate said...

Don't worry. We'll fix this, pay for your health care, college education, clothing, housing, transportation, food, and MORE!!

It's easy, we'll just tax the rich, middle class and working class. We'll tax medical devices and anything else we can get away with. What we can't pay for we'll pawn off on our children and grandchildren.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

@ Dante: Well, you got me on the money angle. They sho' do know how to spend it over there. But let us not forget how much money was spent on the "Big Dig" in Boston that started falling apart almost immediately, or how much money was spent on faulty pumps in New Orleans rebuilt flood control structures.

Maybe they're doing it right out in California, and maybe this was just an honest mistake with almost-tragic consequences. I, too, look forward to hearing more about what happened.

But if they're paying $5.5B and the result is still a bridge that's falling apart, then there is still a huge problem with taking infrastructure seriously enough to make sure the job gets done. Maybe that's why California has such crappy finances, if they pay their contractors huge sums to do shitty work.

(One can also find more sinister reasons if your government is spending too much for low quality work as well.)

When you don't maintain your stuff by "starving the beast" and not spending the needed amount of money or "spending oodles of money unwisely" for a crappy job the net effect is the same. Infrastructure falls apart.

But my view is definitely biased by living in a place where we constantly hear that the cost of reasonable flood protection and coastal restoration is too high. This bias doubles down with all the time I've spent listening to education system "administrators" make excuses for what goes wrong in schools.

My bad.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

@ DADvocate: Hunh? Maintaining our infrastructure is the least we can do to keep up the nice things the older generations left us as our national inheritance.

I guess you could say the builders of the Golden Gate, Bay Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge, Hoover Dam, TVA, Interstates et al stuck us with the bill, but those investments generally paid for themselves.

Now, I tend to agree with folks to my right that many of the dollars our current governments spend return a pittiance on the investment we make. Investment in transportation and schools, however, are usually the investments that pay dividends down the road.

At least they have, historically.

DADvocate said...

Maintaining our infrastructure is the least we can do to keep up the nice things the older generations left us as our national inheritance.

Oh, I agree. But, government seems to think it can and should be all things to all people. If we don't set limits on what government does, we won't be able to afford to do anything right.