My father was a foreman in the Bridge Department of the City of New York.
He told me the story of having worked in that department starting in 1940. Then, in 1942, then Mayor LaGuardia made it official city policy that all city bridges would be put on a deferred maintenance status. My dad, who having just gotten married, got laid off and had to leave New York and his new bride behind to spend two years away working in Harrisburg, PA.
During those two years, the New York City bridges received essentially no attention. They were allowed to rot to the point where collapse was imminent for several of them.
Somebody said that was bad and got some attention in doing so. My father and everyone else got recalled and a mad scramble was on to first do the critical repairs before any collapses could actually happen. Fortunately, they didn't.
As I was growing up during the Mayor Wagner years, bridge maintenance efforts seemed to be getting their proper attention. Dad told me that work crews would start painting say the Williamsburgh Bridge at one end, work their way over to the other end and when they got there, they'd have to start all over again because that's how quickly and intensely weather and salt air would attack the steelwork. You always seemed to see the scaffolding in place.
Today, on a national scale, that lesson is tragically forgotten. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it's mistakes.
As written by Mr. Ron Scherere of the Christian Science Monior an published on ABC Newsat http://abcnews.go.com/International/CSM/story?id=3442354 (no longer available) in the aftermath of the collapse of the I-35W Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis:
'The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation a D in 2005, the latest report available, after assessing 12 categories of infrastructure ranging from rails and roads to wastewater treatment and dams.
"One of America's great assets is its infrastructure, but if you don't invest it deteriorates," says Patrick Natale, executive director of ASCE. '
We know that money is at the heart of the problem and isn't that always the case.
However, when deferred maintenance becomes public policy, the end result is a death sentence for somebody. Who that somebody will be and when that somebody will die, we don't know, but somebody, somewhere, sometime, will pay that price.
The someplace just happened to be Minnesota that time.