Bridges, Deficiencies, and Bullshit.

by Bob Plankers on August 2, 2007 · 8 comments

in Outright Rant

“Functionally obsolete” does not mean “good” to me. It means the object being described doesn’t meet current standards.

“Structurally deficient” does not mean “okay to continue using” to me. It means it’s going to break and needs to be dealt with.

“Non-redundant structure” doesn’t mean that failure can be tolerated. It means it’s all going to go all at once.

Scoring 50 out of 120 points on an inspection is a failing grade, to anybody who has attended any school, ever.

You have two options when faced with a structurally deficient bridge, which is functionally obsolete and non-redundant: fix it, or continue inspecting it. “Oh, we’ll just keep an eye on it.”

These engineers might be book smart, but ask any average Joe and you’d get the same answer: “What, are you stupid? Fix it.” You fix it out of fear that your last bridge inspection will be conducted while it sits in the river it spans, after they pull the dead bodies out.

This was murder. The weapon was apathy, cover-your-ass bullshit that MnDOT and the US Department of Transportation are deploying even now to save their asses from the lawsuits. I hope that every engineer that was complicit in this, every administrator who signed off on the decisions to do nothing, every politician who appointed those administrators are charged with manslaughter. I hope they lose their engineering certifications, lose their positions, and in some cases end up as convicted criminals. In the meantime they should lose their jobs for gross incompetence, and every bridge they worked with should be reinspected by competent teams. These people knew, from the lack of redundancy, that a failure would be catastrophic. They staked other people’s lives on their decisions to not fix the problems. They killed people with their apathy.

Maybe then we’ll stop seeing MnDOT and USDOT people on television saying that the term “structurally deficient” doesn’t mean “unsafe.”

Update: I’ve already had one email pointing out two things: that the cause is not known yet, and that this post is kinda harsh. I’ll concede that this may be premature, and we may discover that a freak problem happened that nobody could predict. Sure. As for being harsh, dying is harsh. I’ve driven across that bridge hundreds of times in my life. I didn’t know I was risking my life every time because of potentially bad decisions.


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