Pssst...Yeah, you. Want to buy a bridge?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The collapse of a bridge spanning the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minn. six months ago quickly focused the attention of the nation on the condition of roads and bridges. A study released this week that shows the condition of Iowa's bridges is the fourth worse in the nation will no doubt add some fuel to the debate.

Having safe roads and bridges is hardly a partisan issue. It's something we all can agree on. The arguments inevitably come when the issue of paying for them arises. Lawmakers in Des Moines are currently wrestling with this issue.

According to an Associated Press report, "The study found that 21 percent of Iowa's 5,153 bridges were structurally deficient, meaning the structures have major deterioration to decks or other major components. The label doesn't necessarily mean a bridge isn't safe. Another 6 percent of the state's bridges were rated as "functionally obsolete," meaning they were built to standards no longer in use for highway construction.

Only Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Rhode Island ranked worse than Iowa.

The study found that at current funding levels, the state will fall further behind in repairing and maintaining bridges."

Doesn't sound so good, does it?

Who can we thank for undertaking this obviously in-depth study of our bridges? Who is so concerned with our safety and welfare that they studied all the bridges in the nation?

The federal government? Nope.

A consumer group? Perhaps a parent organization? Wrong again.

The study that tells us that repairing or replacing the bridges would cost the state roughly $257 million a year was a group called TRIP, a Washington-based group comprised of insurance companies, equipment manufacturers, construction firms and labor unions that depend on highway construction for jobs.

Yes, the folks that would be getting the lion's share of that $257 million a year here in Iowa are the ones that we can thank for bringing the problem to our attention.

What a bunch of great folks. Kind of like the fox telling you that your chickens are way too cooped up and deserve to be free range. It IS the 21st century, after all.

We have no doubt that our bridges need work, but we caution our lawmakers to be too quick to jump on this bandwagon (it might not make it over the river with too many on board, after all).

Identify the problems, make a plan, set