U.S. politicians on Thursday treated the collapse of a highway bridge that killed or injured dozens of people as a jarring wake-up call to fix the nation's aging roads and bridges, but experts have been sounding the alarm for years with limited success.The work will require billions of dollars and you'll hear Washington talk about a choice between cutting programs/costs or raising taxes. What you likely won't hear is the $500 billion price tag of the Iraq war which will eventually cost $2 trillion.
Rep. James Oberstar, the Minnesota Democrat who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, blamed President George W. Bush's administration for shortchanging road and bridge repair in a highway funding bill two years ago.
Bush, he said, "failed to support a robust investment in surface transportation," adding the president insisted on only $2 billion a year for bridge reconstruction when lawmakers were pushing for $3 billion a year.
The problem of aging infrastructure is not new. A 2002 report by the Department of Transportation said about 30 percent of the nation's highway bridges were structurally or functionally deficient.
A 2005 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the country's infrastructure an unacceptable D grade -- almost failing. The group estimated the United States needed to spend $1.6 trillion over five years to put its infrastructure into good shape.
"This has been out there for quite some time," said Kent Harries, an engineering professor at the University of Pittsburgh. "It's not only the transportation and bridge infrastructure, it is infrastructure in general."
So it's OK to spend that much money on a lied-into war that was poorly planned, has only worsened our national security, and has resulted in the deaths of 3600+ U.S. soldiers. But when it comes to money needed for our roads and bridges, that will require sacrifice here at home. I guess those millions of kids without insurance will remain uninsured.