Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bridges Don't Matter

Because the Republicans in the Senate wouldn't even consider passing President Obama's big jobs bill in package form, Senate Majority Leader Reid and the president decided to break that proposal into smaller bites, with a portion served each week. The first portion also didn't make it into an up-or-down vote, which was pretty surprising in that it dealt with plans to enable increased hiring of teachers and first responders (police and fire fighters). The next portion is scheduled for the coming week and involves money for improving highways and transportation.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Senate Democrats unveiled the next provision of President Obama's jobs plan they will bring for a vote -- $60 billion for highways, transit and airports -- as they attempt to pressure Republican opponents. ...

Polls show the public supports federal building on infrastructure. This proposal would provide $50 billion for highway, transit and aviation improvements, upgrading 150,000 miles of road and improving 4,000 miles of rail tracks, Democrats said.

The proposal would also launch a $10-billion infrastructure bank, which local agencies could tap for infrastructure construction projects.
[Emphasis added]

This last part of the bill surely resonated in Los Angeles County. Just a few days before this article was published, a report was released that a number of bridges in the area are "structurally deficient, including one that is heavily traveled each day:

A stretch of the 10 Freeway, spanning the Los Angeles River and a maze of surface streets near downtown, routinely carries more than 300,000 vehicles a day. Built in 1959, the bridge has cracks in its concrete deck and is in need of repair.

It earned particular notoriety this week when a transportation advocacy nonprofit declared it one of the most heavily trafficked structurally deficient bridges in the U.S. ...

Doug Failing, executive director of highways for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said the group's findings are "reason to be concerned, although not reason to be panicked."

Structurally deficient bridges are not on the brink of collapse but are in need of repair to extend their life spans, Failing said. Most of the county's bridges were built in the 1950s and '60s with roughly 50- to 60-year life spans; putting off repairs will only multiply future expenses and could prove dangerous, he said. ...

Martin Wachs, director of transportation, space and technology at the Santa Monica-based Rand Corp., said infrastructure repair serves as a fast way to create jobs but that securing funding can be tough and unpopular.

"Politically there's almost no obvious reward for fixing something before it collapses as opposed to building something new," Wachs said. "We constantly turn our backs on the importance of our infrastructure. Eventually when we face the music, it's going to cost more and it's going to be more difficult and complex," he said.
[Emphasis added]

So, the public needs and wants improved infrastructure and that's one way to create jobs, but the chances of the Republicans passing this part of the package are rated to slight to none. Why? Because we're coming up on an election year and the GOP wants to deny Barack Obama and Democrats any kind of momentum. Apparently they'd rather bridges in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh actually fell down, killing people. Apparently they'd also rather grant more tax breaks to corporations than putting the rest of us back to work now.

Ordinarily I would say the GOP is taking a huge risk, that the American public will realize just what the GOP is doing and reject the obstructionism and calculated recalcitrance. Even I am not that naive, however. I didn't see any howling from the Democrats about the defeat of the proposal to fund more cops and firefighters. I don't anticipate any when this portion goes down either.

The hard times will continue.

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Blogger Florence said...

It is a complete puzzle to me why Democrats aren't making a huge public relations deal out of the fact that Republicans block the re-hiring of teachers, firemen, and police.

But then I've never understood why we have the money to fight wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and most recently Uganda but it costs too much to provide for education.


9:07 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

President Obama is finally beginning to, but Democratic senators, for the most part, appear to have lost their voices.

12:35 PM  

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