The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Governor Gregoire Hypes Disaster to sell bridges

Is Gregoire hyping disaster to sell bridges?

By Knute Berger 1/17/07

Gov. Christine Gregoire is eagerly sharing the happy news of her willingness to slap tolls on bridges and highways. She met with Oregon Gov.Ted Kulongoski in Clark County the other day to discuss moving ahead on a $4.2 billion new bridge over the Columbia River on I-5. The feds would pick up most of the tab, but Gregoire is set on imposing tolls. To push her agenda, she's using last summer's Minneapolis bridge collapse to make her case for urgency. Only problem is, it turns out the Minneapolis bridge disaster wasn't a case of aging infrastructure. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has concluded the problem was a design flaw.

Gregoire's statements on tolling the Columbia will ring bells for anyone listening to her rationales for exploring tolls the SR-520 bridge across Lake Washington. According to the Columbian, Gregoire is not only firm about making the new Columbia span--a key north-south link in the greater Vancouver-Portland area--a toll bridge, but she wants to look at imposing more tolls nearby:

Tolls, Gregoire said, will be a part of the finance package...
“The interesting questions there are: Do we start tolling before we even begin construction on the bridge to make sure the tolls can be lower when it’s ultimately opened? Do we do variable tolling to reduce congestion and give more choices to consumers? Do we have to toll someplace else because we’re going to push traffic in a big way” to other bridges? “In my mind, we are going to toll. How do we toll?”

The current Columbia bridge is considered a "bottleneck," but Gregoire is also raising the specter of safety and disaster. According to The Oregonian:

Gregoire said last summer's collapse of an interstate bridge in Minneapolis was "a wake-up call to this nation."

"The interstate bridges that connect Vancouver and Portland are heavily used and aging, and it is time to replace them in the name of safety as well as economic vitality," she said.

The Minneapolis bridge became the poster child for America's aging infrastructure, but Gregoire may have to look for another example. On Jan. 15, the New York Times reported:

Investigators said Monday that the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, which collapsed into the Mississippi River on Aug. 1, killing 13, came down because of a flaw in its design.

The designers had specified a metal plate that was too thin to serve as a junction of several girders, investigators say....

The I-35W bridge was of a type called “fracture critical,” meaning that the failure of any major member would cause a collapse, because it had no redundancy. The design is lighter and less expensive to build, but has gradually fallen out of favor with highway departments.

This doesn't mean that infrastructure isn't aging and that it doesn't need additional inspection, repair and possible replacement. But the situation in Minnesota isn't a case of neglected maintenance but likely a case of human error or poor judgement.

The case for bridge replacement can be made without hyping the Minnesota tragedy.

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