A closed bridge is a major inconvenience. But it could have been a lot worse.
The Sherman Minton Bridge between Louisville, Kentucky and New Albany, Indiana has been closed indefinitely
after cracks were discovered in support beams. As the bridge carries more than 50,000 cars each day, according to a transportation official, its closing caused and will presumably continue to cause serious traffic problems. What's more:
As for whether the Kennedy Bridge can safely handle extra traffic while the Sherman Minton is out, Wolfe said, "I've got to be very careful what I say about things like that because we have no reason to think it's going to make the Kennedy Bridge unsafe."
But he added, "The Kennedy Bridge already handles more traffic than what it was designed for."
The Kennedy Bridge, in fact, was scheduled for inspection—an inspection that has been delayed due to the closing of the Sherman Minton Bridge.
The fact that the Sherman Minton was closed before anyone was killed shouldn't let anyone make excuses about the need for infrastructure investment to repair our bridges before they get to this point. At a rally in June, Laborers' Union President Terry O'Sullivan said that bridges are typically built to last 50 years, and the average American bridge is 43 years old. The Sherman Minton, built in 1962, is just a little older than average; if it was built to last 50 years, the fact that it is being closed as an emergency rather than for a planned-for major overhaul or replacement is emblematic of our government's failure to plan for our foreseeable infrastructure needs. But of course that's not how our government rolls.
A Think Progress report details:
[...] Republican Congressional leadership’s opposition to infrastructure investments even as structural deficiencies in bridges and roadways persist in their home states. Among those is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, where 34 percent of bridges are considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
If what Republican politicians were doing to our country by not investing in infrastructure (and, hey, creating much-needed jobs at the same time) was because they weren't paying attention or didn't know what they were doing, it would be criminal recklessness. But it's not. The refusal to repair or rebuild bridges and make other needed infrastructure investments is intentional. Because doing so would require rich people and corporations to pay a reasonable amount of taxes. Because it would show that government has an important function and can work. It's way beyond simple recklessness.