During construction on an aging bridge in Nampa Monday, a 100 ft section of the bridge collapsed, sending 13 workers to the hospital. All but 2 were treated and released. Of those two still hospitalized, one was in serious condition until Wednesday afternoon. This is the pretty pass our roads have come to- they are so damaged and structurally deficient, we can't even fix them without risking death and dismemberment.
According to the Idaho Transportation Department, 20% of all the roads in Idaho are structurally deficient. That means one in every five miles is broken and in need of serious repair. 19% of our bridges have aged beyond their 50-year life span, and many more are approaching the end of their life span. Consider these facts in conjunction with this fun fact: Traffic in Idaho has increased 99% since 1978, when these bridges were already at least 20 years old. Neat.
It's hard to say what bothers me more about lousy roads. Is it that instead of paying for the upkeep of roads that are vitally important to everybody, our tax dollars were spent on protecting wolves that eat our exports? Is it that when we do fix our roads and bridges, we do it as cheaply as possible instead of doing it right so it lasts more than a year? Is it that it seems that I can't drive on I15 in the summer months without avoiding orange barrels, and it never seems to get better? I'm just going to have to divide my angst on this one between the three. Actually, if I were honest I'd have to add a fourth, less noble source of irritation: those flag guys make way more money than I do, and I also am skilled at standing around avoiding traffic-and work.
Sub-standard infrastructure has been a hot topic for a few years now, and so far all our government, both state and federal, has been able to do to address the issue is have a lot of committee meetings. We could pave a sub-standard road with the documents they've published detailing all the talking they do about the problem. Governor Otter wants to create a system that taxes the people who use the roads most. What's his implementation plan? Install taxi meters in all registered vehicles? Some like the thought of toll roads to increase revenue. This would work, except that instead of repairing the road, we'd have to build toll booths. And who is supposed to pay for all this anyway? Does the federal government pay for the interstates, and the state pays for the rest? Questions, questions, and more questions.
The fact is, we have to have safe and reliable roads. Our health depends on it, our economy depends on it, and our defense depends on it. Congress: Instead of chatting volumes about how bad the situation is, prioritize and pay for a decent infrastructure. IDOT: wise up-you get what you pay for, and I'm tired of paying for crap. Special interest groups (especially environmentalists)-when I can drive safely over my overpass that is now so deficient one lane is closed, then I'll start caring about your wolves. Until then, be quiet. Everyone else: just try to avoid the potholes. Lets not make a bad situation worse.