Band-Aids for bridges

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and officials are gathering today to announce when the new I-35W bridge will open. The new bridge could open as early as Tuesday, expecting to ease traffic and perhaps give a bit of closure to those impacted by its predecessorâÄôs collapse. Nevertheless, the state and the country are nowhere nearer to finding ways to finance the nationâÄôs infrastructure. Senate democrats and the Bush administration disputed last week whether the severe conditions of bridges are enough to be deemed a safety crisis. The Bush administration does not want to call it a safety crisis because of the price tag. While the hefty price tag is worth it, funding will not solve infrastructure woes. A $1 billion bill that would ramp-up inspection requirements and repairs is pending in the Senate. The bill would address national highway system bridges and require states to draft plans to fix such bridges. To continue to improve infrastructure, however, the government needs to consider alternate funding options. Indeed, the current bridge repair program âÄúlacks focus,âÄù according to a report by the General Accounting Office. One solution might be in AmericaâÄôs fledgling transit system, which will ease road usage âÄî not to mention pocketbooks âÄî if properly funded. Roads and bridges are in constant need of repair, while transit is a relatively stable investment. As the state celebrates the quick completion of the bridge and the federal governmentâÄôs quick response to help fund the project, politicians and citizens cannot ignore the larger issue of the approximately 70,000 structurally deficient bridges in the nation. The government should stop putting Band-Aids on the infrastructure and seriously consider reorganizing funding possibilities to begin better investing in the future of roads and safety.