Save Our Bridges: The Stimulus That Could Work Now

Listeners to Science Friday on WVXU last Friday may have caught a segment on the decaying bridges which are part of our interstate highway system.  One guest was Gary LePatner, the creator of, which lists all the bridges which have been determined to be "structurally deficient" or "fracture critical".  "Fracture critical" is particularly scary, as it is "defined by the FHWA as [having] a steel member in tension, or with a tension element, whose failure would probably cause a portion of or the entire bridge to collapse."  Remember the I-35 collapse in Minnesota

That could happen here.  At least three separate times.  There are three "fracture critical" bridges right near downtown.  Map below.

View LePatner Bridge Map in a larger map

One of the contributors to the show mentioned the political bargain that was created when the interstate highway system was built: the federal government would build the roads, and states would maintain them, partly with money from federal gasoline taxes.   It's a system that's broken down because of state balanced budget amendments and political squabbling.

If a foreign country were destroying our bridges with bombs, we'd be at war.  Instead, our political system is doing it in slow motion.

Right now, creditors are willing to pay the US government to hold their money. Isn't it appropriate that we borrow to fix this stuff, when investors are willing to pay us to do it?

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