Thursday, August 02, 2007

Trolls and Tolls

My heart goes out to the trolls living under the I35W bridge ... The people involved deserve sympathy and support as well. It sounds like the Twin Cities Red Cross and other first responders did a great job in reducing the hardship.

If you are thinking of giving to the Red Cross, you should give to your local chapter. All of the parts of the system work together. So when there is a tragedy, resources get pulled out of neighboring Red Cross Chapters. Other relief centers efforts are similar. For example, simply giving blood to your local blood bank makes more resources available in the system. In Utah, ARUP is leader in blood donations.

The primary political issue (after all the finger pointing) about the I35W infrastructure failure is that maintenance is critical. Bridges and levees aren't just things that get built then forgotten. A bridge is a process. When you build something, you have to plan for the costs of the whole lifecycle of the project.

Unfortunately, in our little politically charged world, politicians simply want the fame, glory and power that come from the construction. The maintenance is an expense pushed onto an unwitting future generation. Even when the planners are good and calculate the full lifecycle costs of a project, the politicians that follow are wont to divert the tax dollars set aside for maintenance into their pet projects.

A few of the talking heads on TV were arguing that Minnesota should be raising taxes to pay for better road maintenance. I was a bit upset with this argument. You should never have to raise taxes to pay for maintenance. If you do, it generally means one of two things. Either the people who planned the infrastructure in the first place did a really bad job. The more likely scenerio is that politicians diverted the budget set aside for maintenance to other less worthy projects.

I suspect there is going to be a great deal of finger pointing at Minnesota's maintenance workers in the upcoming weeks. Personally, I really appreciate of people in the unglamorous world of maintenance. So, my heart goes out to the victims on the bridge, the maintenance workers and my fellow trolls who now have to find a new bridge to live under.


Scott Hinrichs said...

I noticed that a court ruled that insurance companies don't have to pay for damage due the the flooding caused by the breaking of the levee in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. These people's policies specifically excluded this type of coverage.

But it does beg the question of who the people should appeal to for recovery of their losses. It seems that the government entities that were at fault for failing to maintain the levee were negligent and should compensate those that were damaged by their negligence accordingly.

Failure to do proper maintenance is truly the most costly way to go.

Charles D said...

You are right about diversions - at least to an extent. I heard on one of the news channels that the cost of fixing all the bridges that are currently substandard in the US would be $190B. The Iraq War is slated to cost at least $1000B, so that's a good start. We spend about $1.8 Trillion per year on the military including veteran's costs, debt service on previous military budgets, etc.

We have a choice between having a decent infrastructure and a decent life for Americans and being an empire and "superpower". Only 2 of our horde of Presidential candidates in the 2 parties get that - one on each side.