WFYI recently shared some sobering news with Hoosier drivers:
Indiana’s bridges were built to last 75 years, and half are at least 50 years old. INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning says about 7 percent are in what he calls “poor condition” – not that they’re unsafe, just that it will cost a lot to fix them.
At current funding levels, that percentage will rise to 12.5 percent in 10 years. In order to keep the percentage of bridges in poor condition at about 8 percent, Browning says funding needs to increase about $60 million a year for the next 10 years. And he says an ideal level is less than 3 percent of bridges in poor condition.
“And in order to achieve that, that’s nearly a hundred million dollars more a year than we have available to spend today for the next 20 years,” Browning said.
I think it was Eric Hoffer who said a civilization should be measured not by the buildings and monuments its citizens erect, but by their maintenance of the built environment–especially its infrastructure. He was right.
Our crumbling roads and bridges testify to how short-sighted and selfish we Americans have become. We don’t plant trees that our grandchildren will sit under. (If we can’t enjoy it tomorrow, then screw it!) We complain when we are asked to invest in public goods that will serve future generations–schools, libraries, public health. When we do pave our roads, we do it on the cheap. (Let the next Mayor/Governor do it over.)
The irony is, we could have addressed the Great Recession by using the cheap money and abundant labor to fix our decaying infrastructure. We could have put thousands of people back to work, ended the recession more quickly, and improved the deteriorated roads, bridges and electrical grids that we will hand off to our children and theirs.
Worse– we all know that when the bridges fail and people are killed or injured, the “fiscal hawks” who’ve been waging war on the very idea of government, the same people who’ve adamantly refused to give that government the resources it requires in order to function properly, will blame…wait for it….government.
I get so discouraged…..