Monday, July 20, 2015

A half-century old, functionally obsolete bridge collapses in California - while Republicans seek to cut infrastructure spending and give tax breaks to the super-wealthy (with UPDATE)

(In the two-minute video above, we see the collapsed bridge on California's I-10, as well as related infrastructure problems in California.)

A bridge on California's I-10 collapsed during a flood yesterday, injuring a motorist and causing serious traffic problems. The bridge was built in 1967 and was listed as functionally obsolete by the Federal Highway Administration. Functionally obsolete bridges "are those that do not have adequate lane widths, shoulder widths, or vertical clearances to serve current traffic demand, or those that may be occasionally flooded." Photos from the bridge collapse appear to show a bridge that was not high enough to handle flood waters (and/or perhaps the bridge supports were not strong enough to handle today's increasingly turbulent weather).

As of 2014, California had 2,501 bridges that were structurally deficient and 4,306 bridges that were functionally obsolete (link). 

Meanwhile, because they want to give tax breaks to millionaires & billionaires, and because they want to increase military spending, Republican and Tea Party politicians want to cut funding for infrastructure. In fact, they want to cut funding for just about every domestic program, so that they can divert money to the super-wealthy and to Mid-East interventions.

(See "Top GOP Senator Blames His Party for Lack of Highway Funding," Huffington Post, May 19, 2015)

So, we're stuck with old, inadequate, and sometimes dangerous old bridges...and/or the middle-class & poor will be forced to pay more taxes, tolls, fees, and fines, at the state & local level, to pay for upgrades... despite the fact the middle-class has been hammered with stagnant or reduced wages over the past several decades, and despite the fact that the middle-class has shrunk in every state since 2000 (while the super-wealthy have added hundreds of billions of dollars to their personal fortunes).

During the New Deal, the WPA employed the jobless to engage in 124,000 projects to build, repair, or improve bridges and viaducts. And these bridges and viaducts served America for many decades (Indeed, many still are). And we could do the same today, if the GOP/Tea Party would stop coddling the super-wealthy and stop calling low-income Americans "wild animals" and "lazy pigs."

UPDATE (7-21-2015): According to the California Dept. of Transportation, the bridge was rated "functionally obsolete" because it required motorists to slow down as they approached the bridge. The cause of the collapse seems to be the fact that rushing waters ate away at one of the bridge's anchoring points. The water beneath the bridge had been diverted from its normal flow path, which is considered a common occurrence in desert areas. Given this, it would seem that the bridge would benefit by being higher and having anchoring points further away from the stream bed (or anchoring of a different design). This collapse could be a warning about other low-lying bridges that run over over desert streams and rivers, especially in view of the fact that we're experiencing more extreme weather.

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