I blame (Gov.) Jim Douglas... and Ronald Reagan

The flood of 1927 was one the defining moments in Vermont's modern history; one of the consequences of the event that is many of the state's bridges were built in the flood's aftermath, replacing structures that were swept away in the deluge. These 'new' post-flood bridges have mostly not been replaced and have far exceeded their original projected lifespans.... especially as the structures were built in an era of much fewer, and lighter, vehicles.

A bridge on state Route 2 between Waterbury and Middlesex was inspected this spring, deemed unsafe and immediately closed to all traffic. The steel structure is badly corroded and cannot be repaired, VTrans was inspecting the structure on an ongoing basis because it was known to be in poor condition.

It would have been nice if they had left the structure open for pedestrians and cyclists, but this sign is not just for show, there is no way to get across. Sunday morning we rode down to the bridge, we were trying to get to a new cafe (the bridge closure is having a quite significant impact on businesses) that opened in Middlesex but there was no way to get through.

Eighty years of Vermont winters and exposure to salt have taken a toll.

A hard rain's gonna fall: Vermont's version of the big muddy, heavy thunderstorms had rolled through the night before.

I blame Jim Douglas (and generations of preceding lawmakers) because in a previous legislative session (2006-07 I think) an increase in the gas tax was proposed to pay for transportation infrastructure and Gov. Douglas opposed the increase, citing frivolous reasons like not wanting to oppress parents driving children to soccer practice or some such nonsense, so nothing was done -- though this was much too late for this bridge anyway. This year the legislature finally agreed to pass a $10M transportation bond... a figure that amounts to spit in a bucket, statewide. I blame Ronald Reagan because he seems to be a father figure of modern Republicanism, and pursued fiscally bankrupt policies in an attempt to constrain the 'welfare' state... but collapsing infrastructure seems to be a consequence as well.

It may also be that part of the problem is that Vermont lawmakers tend to have a very expansive view of the role of state government and have used funding mechanisms intended to pay for infrastructure for other things. So it's been an equal opportunity failure all around, it's hard for me to have much respect for 'leaders' who don't lead and seem unable to tell it like it is.


Ikebana said...

There’s plenty of blame to go around, now we need a real action plan. I’m worried about all the post-1927 flood bridges crumbling at the same time. It’s time to get something done.

Jeff said...

I know... It's not all the fault of the current administration, but I do think that Jim Douglas has really not been at all constructive on this: Very cowardly. He's a lifetime state employee and it shows. (NB: I don't think that Symington or Polina would do much better, I think they use this as issue only as a stick...)