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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Spending Priorities

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 08/03/07 16:07

by Tom Hammond

Republicans have spent 600 billion dollars on the war in Iraq and
hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for the rich and the super-rich. They simply don?t have the money to waste to fortify the levees in New Orleans and repair the bridges in Minneapolis. It?s a matter of priorities.
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Judgment Calls: Getting It Right Or Getting By

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 08/03/07 00:41, Edited: 08/03/07 04:07

by Dave Mindeman

After a study raised concern about cracks, the state was given two alternatives: Add steel plates to reinforce critical parts or conduct a thorough inspection of certain areas to see if there were additional cracks. They chose the inspection route, beginning that examination in May. --information from Dan Dorgan, State Bridge Engineer

Before we discuss that information, let's review the larger picture. It has been a little confusing to decipher all the interpretations of times and conclusions of the various inspection reports. At first blush, it would seem that most of the inspections did show some structural problems, but final decisions, on what to do about it, were judgment calls.

As some sort of explanation, MNDOT has been using comparisons that show a large number of US bridges fall into the same designated category. This is not, ultimately, reassuring.

It looks as though inspections were not neglected. They appear to have been done on a regular basis.

But it is the conclusion reached in the first paragraph that I find particularly disturbing. Two alternatives: One requiring an expensive and extensive reinforcement. (Another project to add to a full MNDOT calendar and a dept that just doesn't have the money.) The other, a cheaper inspection route that would delay any real action to a later time.

The State chose the latter. Maybe this is just a judgment call and they made a mistake. But, given the track record of this administration on transportation costs, the final choice was probably never in doubt.

We need to remember that all choices have consequences.... simply taking the choice that is the "cheap" one, is not always the best one.

UPDATE: Star Tribune is running a story this morning about this very same decision. Only its worse than I thought....MNDOT had actually strted to seek bids on a reinforcement project but decided against it. To quote the article:

But Dorgan told the Star Tribune Thursday that plans changed. "We decided to handle it with inspections instead," he said. Gary Peterson, MnDOT's assistant bridge engineer, said plating would have required drilling thousands of holes in the bridge.
"If you take a look at drilling all of those holes in a bridge that is already fracture critical you could initiate flaws that might initiate a fracture," Peterson said.


If they knew this bridge had problems bad enough to make attempts at reinforcement a problem, why was that bridge still allowed to take on 100,000 plus cars a day -- and without weight restrictions?
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Historic Event Requires Historic Response

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 08/02/07 14:48

by Dave Mindeman

It is pretty hypocritical when the ultimate politicizer, Michael Brodkorb, is out there criticizing Michael McIntee and Elwyn Tinklenberg for speaking out and asking questions. The facts are clear, this issue needs to be addressed immediately.

This is a tragedy of "historic" proportions... Governor Pawlenty was accurate about that at least. But lets not kid ourselves into thinking that we can stop at mourning with, and extending our condolences to, those that lost loved ones, although we certainly must do that.

There is another important issue here. We need to find out if we have other fundamental problems with how we deal with infrastructure. If a collapse of this magnitude can happen despite the usual maintenance program and inspection process, then we need to reexamine all of our structures ---NOW.

For several years, transportation budgets have been cut to the bone and we have no idea how badly the neglect has damaged our system of commerce.....our highways.

Last year when the transportation bill was vetoed, the legislature passed and the governor signed, a "lights on" bill that kept current projects going. Buried in that bill was a provision to increase the truck load weight limits in the state. Maybe a necessary provision to keep business goods moving faster, but, yet another means to add stress to a highway system that has had its maintenance needs brushed aside, time and time again.

We need to respond to this event with an "historic" response that will guarantee Minnesotans that we have a government that responds to their transportation needs effectively.

MNDOT will be holding a news conference this afternoon. This is no time to dwell on excuses. We need action.


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