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T WAS A WAKE-UP CALL THAT SOUNDED WITH LOUD ALARM.
The 2007 Minnesota bridge collapse awoke a slumbering nation with a force-
fulness that neither 9-11 or the hurricane devastation of New Orleans could
match.
True, the attack upon the World Trade Center shook us to our very souls, and
we commiserated many weeks and months with Katrina victims.
But let’s face it: We knew the United States was overdue for a terrorist attack
sometime and somewhere. And as far as New Orleans, we knew that this city we
worshipped for its distinct culture rested upon ground below sea level and in a region
prone to nature’s wrath (i.e., hurricanes).
So, it was only a matter of time.
But that bridge collapse – now, that was something else.
It awakened us to the fragility of our national infrastructure and, more importantly,
to how much our nation’s economy depends upon this infrastructure.
We take for granted the roads we travel and the bridges we cross. But what if they
no longer were there? The question no longer resides in the realm of theory. We wit-
nessed the real consequences in Minnesota.
That bridge – the I-35W bridge that crossed the expansive Mississippi River, and
this information should become as ingrained into our consciousness as the street
address of the World Trade Center – provided ingress into a major city. Its collapse
(the result of neglect) amounted to much more than commuter inconvenience. It cost
millions of dollars. As the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic
Development found out, the 2007 bridge collapse cost the Minnesota economy $60
million in economic activity before the replacement bridge opened in 2008.
One of the most important things to understand about “the bridge” is that it’s not
an isolated incident. All throughout the country, transportation infrastructure crum-
bles. Take the Minnesota incident and multiply it by 50, and you get a sense of where
we’re headed.
So, what needs to be done? Well, a bill has been presented to Congress. It involves
a front-loaded, six-year reauthorization of the federal highway and transit improve-
ment programs. The ARTBA (American Road and Transport Builders Association),
an organization that knows a thing or two about the impact of infrastructure on the
American economy, strongly supports the bill. So does President Obama.
Congressional action – or inaction, if you will – appears to be the barrier. So what
is it waiting for? ARTBA surely doesn’t know. All it knows is that the passage of
the bill is absolutely crucial to the future of the transportation construction indus-
try. Further, passage will have a ripple effect that could be felt throughout other busi-
ness sectors and, in turn, positively impact the U.S. economy.
We’re as confounded as the ARTBA. In the meantime, we’re happy to provide
readers with a well-reason argument in favor of the bill. Our “Focus” article, writ-
ten by ARTBA Senior Economist and Vice President of Policy Alison Premo Black,
will open your eyes to the issue.
No doubt, you’ll sleep no more when it comes to this issue. What needs to hap-
pen now is to poke the somnambulistic Congress.
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PUBLISHER’S LETTER
I
A BRIDGE TO NOWHERE? WE HOPE NOT