Friday, August 10, 2007

London Bridges

“Iron and Steel will Bend and Bow”
by Charlie Leck

I remember, as a wee one, being terribly frightened by the nursery rhyme about London’s bridges falling down. Growing up where I did, and in our family circumstances, I often made the trip in my dad’s old Model-A, and looked in wonder as we crossed the spectacular George Washington Bridge. As a small kid, it was some experience. So, when I heard the ditty about “bridges falling down” it always brought to my little mind the picture of the massive GW (as it is called now) crashing into the water below. I would have nightmares about it.

Now it has happened and I haven't slept well since it did. The image of that massive interstate highway bridge in Minneapolis, much, much younger in age that the old GW, filled with traffic, crashing into the mighty Mississippi, is more frightening in reality than anything I ever imagined.

There are people in our town who want to avoid the most crucial question. Why?

What went wrong? What caused the bridge to tumble? Oh, there will be scientific answers as the National Safety Board finishes its examination and study, but will we get the truth about the regular examinations of that bridge and why repair was put off. Did it have anything to do with expenditures?

The other day, in a press conference, our state’s Secretary of Transportation, who also happens to be an elected Lieutenant Governor with political promises to keep, got very irritated when one of our city’s best reporters asked her if budgetary concerns played a part in the delaying necessary repairs. She was insulted at the “implications” in the question.

Well, here’s the way it is. As the grief wears off, people are going to want to know why the reports about significant cracks and wear on bolts and shifting of the structure were ignored. The public are going to want all those bridge reports released for a “fine tooth comb” examination of the facts. We are going to want to hear testimony, likely under oath, about what was said in meetings within the Transportation Department about those reports.

My Fair Lady! We do not want to hear again about how your daughter drives over that bridge so regularly. We want to see the reports. We want facts about your department’s reaction to the reports. Finally, we want you to know that we do not think it so wise that you are both a political figure in the governor’s office and a department head who is supposed to advocate on behalf of your department. Not wise at all.

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