After the I-35W bridge fell into the Mississippi River in Minneapolis in August 2007, virtually everyone was jumping up and down about making sure our bridges were safe and no expense should be spared in getting the job done.
But it wasn’t done; and isn’t being done.
I remember talking to Minnesotan Jim Oberstar, former Democratic congressman and former chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee back in early 2009 and seeing, and hearing, his frustration that the urgency had evaporated in a matter of weeks. The leading Republic on the committee back then was its current chairman John Mica, who, equally vocal in his own way, shared that frustration. Both men felt it would have lasted longer, and knew just how much it’s waning had cost. Taken advantage of it could have fueled funding for bridge building, repair, maintenance and inspection.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune, in a story from Washington D.C. bureau correspondent Kevin Diaz, looks back at the bridge fall and the oddity of the narrow urgency window. Rightly, he suggests that if that urgency had led to changes – let’s say as one example an increase in the fuel tax – today’s funding for our transportation infrastructure as it is in the new MAP-21 legislation, might have been closer to adequate.