Thursday, August 02, 2007


According to the morning paper, 4 people have been killed; 79 have been injured; and 20 to 30 are missing. The numbers change hour to hour. But it looks as if the total dead will be 20+.

The bridge was inspected in 2005 and found "structurally deficient," which means (I guess) that it wasn't up to the load it was carrying, but not likely to fall down. There were signs of stress cracking then.

The American Society of Civil Engineers does a report card on America's infrastructure every two years. They gave American bridges a grade of C in 2005, which was better than roads and schools, both of which got D. No kind of infrastructure got a grade better than C+. According to the ASCE, 27% of the country's bridges are "structurally deficient or functionally obsolete."

The weather has been in the 90s, so heat stress may have been a factor. There was construction on the bridge, which means vibration; and a train was going under the bridge when it collapsed, which means more vibration; and it was rush hour, which means the bridge was carrying a lot of weight.

As far as I can tell, the public safety response was excellent; and most of the injured people ended at Hennepin Country Medical Center, a superb facility with the best trauma unit in the region. HCMC and a small hospital up north were the only public hospitals left in Minnesota the last time I checked. Hennepin County talks of selling the hospital from time to time. Much of the burden of caring for poor people in the state falls on HCMC, because it's a public hospital, and this means it's expensive to run.

I grew up in a family where politics was the normal form of discussion; so my response to everything is political. I was also raised to always move to the next step. When needs to be done now? We need to get the bridge out of the river, which is a working river. The Port of Minneapolis is north of 35W and is now blocked off from the rest of the Mississippi, all the way to New Orleans. Most river traffic stops at St. Paul, but there is a little blue and white tow boat that moves gravel between St. Paul and Minneapolis. Every time I cross the river, I look for it; and I often see it, cute as a button, pushing its two loaded barges north.

I checked on line and could not find the Port of Minneapolis. But I found a state report that says 1,000,000 tons of cargo goes through the Minneapolis river docks.

Getting the old bridge out of the river is a huge job; and a new bridge needs to be built. That usually takes years. In the mean time, 100,000+ cars a day will have to find a new route to work. And maybe we could inspect the rest of the bridges in the state and sink more money into bridge work and other kinds of infrastructure repair; and maybe we could fund public safety and public health better. They have shown us how useful they are.


Blogger Sarah Smith said...

Hi Eleanor-- I'm glad you and Patrick are (physically at least) OK. What a sad, unnecessary thing. Government by the privileged, for the privileged...may they at least have problems getting to work.

Missed you both at Readercon!

Sarah (Smith)

6:42 PM  

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