11 May 2008

Transportation Crossroads

We need an Eisenhower for today's crisis:

The collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis last August points to a fundamental crisis. Transportation systems and structures are outmoded and stressed beyond their capacities. This is not an abstraction; we suffer the consequences during our commutes every day. Traffic congestion in 2005 drained $78 billion from our economy,... adding 4.2 billion hours to Americans' commutes while wasting 2.9 billion gallons of gasoline.

...Yet the federal government clings to a backward funding formula: The more a state's residents drive, the more money that state receives.

...Transportation costs, now the second-highest household expense, are pricing families out of the American dream -- preventing them from saving, buying homes or investing in their children's educations.

....A half-century has passed since President Dwight Eisenhower signed the legislation establishing the United States' interstate highway system. That was among the most daring ideas of its time. It was a road map for the infrastructure that enabled 50 years of unrivaled economic prosperity and opportunity. Today, we must again dare to think and act boldly, but in a different way, because the world has dramatically changed.


Anonymous said...

I'm raising a point of debate with Ms. Rodins' Washington Post article regarding her association
of the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis August 2007 with her comment that it
points to "a fundamental crisis. Transportation systems and structures are outmoded and stressed beyond their capacities."

I'm not certain she can use the I-35W bridge collapse as part of her

As of May 2008 The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the collapse
of the I-35W bridge.

Their review of the collapse has discovered that the original design process of the I-35W bridge
led to a serious error in sizing some of the gusset plates in the main truss.

Undersized gusset plates were found at 8 of the 112 nodes (joints) on the main trusses of the bridge. These 16 gusset plates (2 at each node) were roughly half the thickness required and too thin to provide the margin of safety expected in a properly designed bridge.

While the final NTSB report has still not been written, this undersized gusset plate finding
indicates to me that the ROOT CAUSE of the failure was not a structure outmoded and stressed beyond their capacities as Ms. Rodin suggests.



Randy Simes said...

Shout it from the mountaintops...we need to change the way in which we look at transportation funding.

CityKin said...

Dave, the bridge did have a design mistake 40 years ago, but the flaw was never discovered, and the bridge was not strengthened once in that time. Meanwhile the amount of heavy traffic that it held increased. This bridge may not be the best example but it should be a wake-up call for more thorough inspections and maintenance.

Anonymous said...

Mike I agree 100% with the inspections and maintenance for the bridges and highway system. This effort will keep everyone safe and could foster a major domestic civil engineering enterprise with significant economic impact for Americans.