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I thought this kind of stuff should be moved from the OT thread about the bridge collapse and PW'ers checking in.

Bridge Collapse Revives Issue of Road Spending
In the past two years, Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota twice vetoed legislation to raise the state’s gas tax to pay for transportation needs.

Now, with at least five people dead in the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge here, Mr. Pawlenty, a Republican, appears to have had a change of heart...

Even as the cause of the bridge disaster here remains under investigation, the collapse is changing a lot of minds about spending priorities. It has focused national attention on the crumbling condition of America’s roadways and bridges — and on the financial and political neglect they have received in Washington and many state capitals.

Despite historic highs in transportation spending, the political muscle of lawmakers, rather than dire need, has typically driven where much of the money goes. That has often meant construction of new, politically popular roads and transit projects rather than the mundane work of maintaining the worn-out ones.

Further, transportation and engineering experts said, lawmakers have financed a boom in rail construction that, while politically popular, has resulted in expensive transit systems that are not used by a vast majority of American commuters.

Representative James L. Oberstar, Democrat of Minnesota and the chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, sent out a news release last month boasting about Minnesota’s share of a recent transportation and housing appropriations bill.

Of the $12 million secured for the state, $10 million is slated for a new 40-mile commuter rail line to Minneapolis, called the Northstar. The remaining $2 million is divided among a new bike and walking path and a few other projects, including highway work and interchange reconstruction.

The $286 billion federal transportation legislation passed by Congress in 2005 included more than 6,000 earmarks, which amounted to blatant gifts to chosen districts, including the so-called Bridge to Nowhere in rural Alaska (that earmark was later removed after a political uproar)...
The article mentions attempts in state legislatures to pass bond issues etc to try and raise money for maintenance.
The federal budget for transportation comes largely from excise taxes, particularly on gasoline, set by Congress at 18.4 cents in 1993 and eroded over time by inflation and fuel efficiency. As such, over the last decade, state legislatures in 14 states have voted to raise the state gas tax 19 times. And several states are looking at toll roads and congestion pricing initiatives to help shore up the roads.

The National Conference of State Legislatures, a group with members from all 50 states, is calling for a 3-cents per gallon increase in the federal gas tax...
Several studies have stated our road system is inadequate for our needs in the next ten years. In the meantime, the interestate system turns 50 and is showing signs of old age.
Around St. Louis, for instance, old bridges, rocky roads and tight ramp loops have led to a shutdown of parts of Interstate 64/Highway 40 — one of the most important corridors in the state — until late 2009.
The article talks about how every highway plan is supposed to have a cost benefit analysis done to determine needs, but then a lawmaker says "I don't want that road there, I want it here."

I guess we can expect more interest in selling our highways. I-77 in WV south of Charleston has always been a toll road (since before it was an interstate), and everyone expected the road to become free once the bonds were paid off. But that didn't happen, and recently there's been a lot of talk about raising the tolls because the road is expensive to maintain. (it's presently $3.75 to travel the entire 100 miles from Charleston to the VA border) If the interstates now belong to the states for maintenance, perhaps tolls would be better than selling the roads to private entities.

Rail systems in suburban areas won't be used unless there is some good incentive (or dis-incentive), like high parking costs, high gas costs, traffic congestion. OTOH, one of the reasons new roads are built is that people move out into the suburbs and then need to commute in. Perhaps we just don't build roads for those people, but let them tough it out? Sort of like "why did you move next to the airport if you knew planes would be taking off?" "Why did you move out here if you knew the road was 2 lanes and twisty?"
 

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Yes, portions of our "free" Interstate system are actually toll roads; in addition to the West Virginia Turnpike in your example (I-77), there is the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76), the New York State Thruway (I-90) and a host of countless others. Many of these toll roads pre-date the Interstate system by, in some cases, decades. Although the original concept of a toll on the use of a road (or bridge) may have been to primarily pay for its initial construction and to set aside some capital funds for repairs & maintenance, it has become abundantly clear that the "real" cost to maintain the infrastructure can (and often does) exceed the original investment strategy; hence the need to maintain tolls that were originally intended to be retired many years ago.

Perhaps that might be a potential solution to our highway problem: convert the entire Interstate system into a national toll road network. Short of dramatically increasing both state and federal taxes, I don't see a way to generate enough funds to take care of this dire mess.
 

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A source of free labor we have not tapped is the past form of the chain gang. We could use prisioners for free labor maintaining the highway system and reduce the cost of labor by nearly 50% to 75%. We still would need guards and patrol escorts.
 

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imho... seems like the brilliant decision to completely abandon mass transit in this country 50 years ago and dump all our resources into a infrastructure nightmare is coming back to bite us in the ass... Now imagine all that underground infrastructure spread nice and thin out in the suburbs! Yeh it's cheap today but when it starts to fall apart (along with all the 'built for max profit margin' suburban junk houses). It's going to get expensive! DUH.
 

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Rail systems in suburban areas won't be used unless there is some good incentive (or dis-incentive), like high parking costs, high gas costs, traffic congestion. OTOH, one of the reasons new roads are built is that people move out into the suburbs and then need to commute in. Perhaps we just don't build roads for those people, but let them tough it out? Sort of like "why did you move next to the airport if you knew planes would be taking off?" "Why did you move out here if you knew the road was 2 lanes and twisty?"
Make sure the rail bridge won't fall -- instant incentive?
MN has had a number of efforts to actually increase road spending for road repairs. Gov pawlenty shot them both down.
 

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A source of free labor we have not tapped is the past form of the chain gang. We could use prisioners for free labor maintaining the highway system and reduce the cost of labor by nearly 50% to 75%. We still would need guards and patrol escorts.
Many states, including my own, already use prison details to do routine, unskilled maintenance like trash pickup. The potential dollar savings for these types of efforts is not significant because the required direct supervision is costly. At its most preposterous extreme, I surely would not want to see, say, a convicted dope dealer setting rebar for a new bridge pier...
 

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Yes, portions of our "free" Interstate system are actually toll roads; in addition to the West Virginia Turnpike in your example (I-77), there is the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76), the New York State Thruway (I-90) and a host of countless others. Many of these toll roads pre-date the Interstate system by, in some cases, decades. Although the original concept of a toll on the use of a road (or bridge) may have been to primarily pay for its initial construction and to set aside some capital funds for repairs & maintenance, it has become abundantly clear that the "real" cost to maintain the infrastructure can (and often does) exceed the original investment strategy; hence the need to maintain tolls that were originally intended to be retired many years ago.

Perhaps that might be a potential solution to our highway problem: convert the entire Interstate system into a national toll road network. Short of dramatically increasing both state and federal taxes, I don't see a way to generate enough funds to take care of this dire mess.
You got a war in Iraq that could easily pay the upkeep of our infrastructure. I have always found it amazing, that our government officials can come up with money for things they need to do.
In the real world, bridges do not win votes. While this may have been a tragedy, it will not do very much. At the end of the day, most people IMHO don't care.

Now there are a few options. You can reduce the number of cars on the road. I would like to add, that our highway system was not designed for the massive amounts of vehicles on the roads today. Personally, I don't see this happing because our culture is built around the car.

Increase taxes. As soon as any politician mentions raising taxes, they can kiss their careers goodbye. People complain about how things need to be done. However, they're not willing to pay for it. Anyway, where screwed. There has to be a paradigm shift in our own culture before anything serious will done.

Maybe the Golden Gate, Cheseapeke and Brooklyn Bridges need to all come crashing down? Who knows.
 

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A source of free labor we have not tapped is the past form of the chain gang. We could use prisioners for free labor maintaining the highway system and reduce the cost of labor by nearly 50% to 75%. We still would need guards and patrol escorts.
Yea but will these prisoners have the skills and technical know-how to even read a blue-print let alone building something. I would be know where near anything that was put together by a riker's island crew.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Raising taxes in any form to improve road spending is not popular. In the previous FY the WV governor suspended the automatic increase in fuel tax because of the violent fluctuation of gas prices. This FY it kicked back in, adding a couple more cents to each gallon.

Basing maintenance on gas taxes is tough, as the article mentions, partly because prices increase (unlike sales tax, gas taxes are set per gallon sold, not per dollar purchased), and partly because fuel efficient cars (where?) cause less fuel to be sold. (offset, of course, by people driving more miles because they can) But it's not a dependable revenue source. OTOH, it's sort of a use tax: when an out of stater buys gas in WV, they are paying for the use of the roads here.

Tolls are a more direct revenue stream, and that revenue can go directly to the highway being used. Unfortunately, commuters get truly shafted on this, since they need that road every day, and it wasn't a toll road when they started driving it. Discounts are a help. But toll booths do NOTHING to help traffic congestion. :thumbdown

Of course, the highest tolls are paid by trucks (deservedly so), who also pay additional road taxes. If the interstate system were to go entirely toll, we could expect commodity prices to increase as well.
 

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Many states, including my own, already use prison details to do routine, unskilled maintenance like trash pickup. The potential dollar savings for these types of efforts is not significant because the required direct supervision is costly. At its most preposterous extreme, I surely would not want to see, say, a convicted dope dealer setting rebar for a new bridge pier...
Why not? You assume that the convicted dope dealer is stupid. People sell drugs for a number of reasons. Having a low intelligence is not one of them.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
You got a war in Iraq that could easily pay the upkeep of our infrastructure. I have always found it amazing, that our government officials can come up with money for things they need to do.
In the real world, bridges do not win votes. While this may have been a tragedy, it will not do very much. At the end of the day, most people IMHO don't care.
Agreed with the war comment. However, bridges do win votes locally, which is where roads get built. Which is why a new bridge or road will get votes, but maintaining an old one (built in another administration) is a deal-breaker.
 

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Agreed with the war comment. However, bridges do win votes locally, which is where roads get built. Which is why a new bridge or road will get votes, but maintaining an old one (built in another administration) is a deal-breaker.
I can see where you're coming from. What are your thoughts on roads being maintained by oversees companies? To be honest, I see a future of all major roads being paid for by tolls, maybe even local roads. Like I stated before, I notion of transportation in this country is going to have to change.
 

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...Basing maintenance on gas taxes is tough, as the article mentions, partly because prices increase (unlike sales tax, gas taxes are set per gallon sold, not per dollar purchased), and partly because fuel efficient cars (where?) cause less fuel to be sold. (offset, of course, by people driving more miles because they can) But it's not a dependable revenue source. OTOH, it's sort of a use tax: when an out of stater buys gas in WV, they are paying for the use of the roads here.
I don't see why increasing gas taxes is tough, in fact the arguments you presented in this paragraph make it a no-brainer (to me):

(1) Since gas taxes are on a per-gallon sold basis, they are directly tied to miles driven, and totally independent of OPEC, refinery capacity scares, etc.
(2) Fuel-efficient vehicles are usually (not always, but often enough) smaller, causing less road damage. Therefore the most-damaging users, whether by miles driven or by vehicle weight, will pay proportionally more road taxes, in exact proportion to miles driven and/or weight.
(3) And I think it's perfect that when an out-of-state vehicle buys gas in another state, they are paying for the use of the roads there. In exact proportion to their consumption.
(4) Additionally, higher gasoline taxes would make mass-transit more economically viable, and be a discouragement to urban sprawl.
(5) Electric vehicles would throw a monkey in this wrench.

Tolls are a more direct revenue stream, and that revenue can go directly to the highway being used. Unfortunately, commuters get truly shafted on this, since they need that road every day, and it wasn't a toll road when they started driving it. Discounts are a help. But toll booths do NOTHING to help traffic congestion. :thumbdown
Agreed. IMO Toll roads should be discouraged.

Of course, the highest tolls are paid by trucks (deservedly so), who also pay additional road taxes. If the interstate system were to go entirely toll, we could expect commodity prices to increase as well.
If gas taxes are increased (as opposed to adding tolls to roads), we could also expect commodity prices to increase - and that would be a GOOD thing.
For one specific example, it would encourage local consumption of local produce.
In general, it would encourage local self-sufficiency, which besides the positive effect on local economies, would be an advantage in the "war on terror."
If things get more expensive to ship, people are more likely to buy local.
If people are more likely to buy local, industries (for necessities as well as luxuries) are more likely to de-centralize, making local economies healthier.
Healthier local economies would make the huge-ass Federal Government less necessary, decreasing Federal direct (e.g. income and payroll) taxes.
Decreased Federal direct taxes would increase the pool of money available to local economies.
Which would encourage even more local self-sufficiency.
Nice little circle there. :)
 

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Highway = same as "war profiteers". At least simiar. Many of our highways have already been sold off to companies....not owned by state. Can't wait to see those roads/people's faces 10 years down the road.....

I wonder when is the point where we stop paying taxes to state....and start paying those companies.

Can't wait to see where the companies take this as well.......

THis is going to be GREAT.

IMO infastructure in this country is GREAT and it's been maintained pretty well (from what I see)....however at a "whatever" cost (which we eat of course). If the case is that it DOES require LOT more work then projected there will be a need of resources and budget.

How does state address "maintenance" with companies that one "parts" of a highway......good luck on that. (guessing it will be going back to state for more money...while making profit as is).

Now you see why I compared it to "war profiteering"

:lol:

Agreed. IMO Toll roads should be discouraged.
It will never happen. City traffic congestion is bigger money maker then most think....but let's just say that your car's EPA ratings become worthless (you get the point).

:(

Just like DMV won't ever do harder tests or more driving ed classes (or actually teach drivers PROPER driving techniques etc). I won't even get into the fact that we lose more prople on our highway EACH MONTH then we did on 9/11......yet we are pouring BILLIONS on terrorism and NOTHING for DMV/Infastructure etc (the REAL priorities).

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Why not [have a convicted dope dealer set rebar for bridge piers]? You assume that the convicted dope dealer is stupid. People sell drugs for a number of reasons. Having a low intelligence is not one of them.
No I didn't. I assumed the dope dealer was not a skilled construction worker and is therefore not properly trained or qualified to install steel reinforcing for heavy-civil structural concrete. Apparently, YOU don't think this professional task requires any prior "qualifications" except for a felony conviction.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Potential Flaw Seen in Design of Fallen Bridge
Investigators have found what may be a design flaw in the bridge that collapsed here a week ago, in the steel parts that connect girders, raising safety concerns for other bridges around the country, federal officials said on Wednesday.

The Federal Highway Administration swiftly responded by urging all states to take extra care with how much weight they place on bridges of any design when sending construction crews to work on them. Crews were doing work on the deck of the Interstate 35W bridge here when it gave way, hurling rush-hour traffic into the Mississippi River and killing at least five people.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation is months from completion, and officials in Washington said they were still working to confirm the design flaw in the so-called gusset plates and what, if any, role they had in the collapse.

Still, in making public their suspicion about a flaw, the investigators were signaling they considered it a potentially crucial discovery and also a safety concern for other bridges. Gusset plates are used in the construction of many bridges, not just those with a similar design to the one here.

“Given the questions being raised by the N.T.S.B., it is vital that states remain mindful of the extra weight construction projects place on bridges,” Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters said in a statement issued late Wednesday...

In Minneapolis, state transportation department officials seemed surprised by the sudden focus on the bridge’s gusset plates, which are the steel connectors used to hold together the girders on the truss of a bridge. On this bridge, completed in 1967, there would have been hundreds of them, officials here said.

Gary Peterson, the state’s assistant bridge engineer, said he knew of no questions that had ever been raised about the gusset plates, no unique qualities to distinguish them from those on other bridges, no inkling of any problem during decades of inspections of the bridge.

“I don’t know what this could be,” Mr. Peterson said. “I’m frankly surprised at this point. I can’t even begin to speculate.”

If those who designed the bridge in 1964 miscalculated the loads and used metal parts that were too weak for the job, it would recast the national debate that has emerged since the collapse a week ago, about whether enough attention has been paid to maintenance, and raises the possibility that the bridge was structurally deficient from the day it opened. It does not explain, however, why the bridge stood for 40 years before collapsing...

Federal authorities said one added stress on the gusset plates may have been the weight of construction equipment and nearly 100 tons of gravel on the bridge, where maintenance work was proceeding when the collapse occurred. A construction crew had removed part of the deck with 45-pound jackhammers, in preparation for replacing the two-inch top layer, and that may also have altered the stresses on the bridge, some experts said.
Now it's getting scary. But 100 tons all in one spot on a bridge doesn't sound like a good idea either.
 

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Structurally, trusses are VERY efficient. They usually use much less material (whether made of steel, wood, etc.) to carry a given load than an equivalent, conventional beam or girder. The downside to this advantage is that ALL of the non-redundant members of the truss are absolutely necessary to maintain the structure's stability; if one of the connections, webs, chords or diagonals fails, the integrity of the entire truss is seriously jeopardized, almost-always resulting in a catastrophic failure, and without a lot of warning. This is especially true when an unprotected steel truss is subjected to the intense heat of a major structure fire. Unlike a steel beam, which will usually give a visual indicator of its impending failure by sagging or twisting, or an audible sound of groaning or wrenching (but not always), a steel truss is more likely to just silently go KA-BOOM!

Also in the past, most trusses weren't typically designed to carry an instantaneous load transfer from adjacent members failing in a progressive collapse; that design philosophy is changing.
 
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