Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Chorus of warning


    Bridges have fallen down in some parts of the U.S. because of the nation’s failure to repair or to replace them.
    Now Blaine County Commissioners say the county can’t afford to keep its road system in good repair and will let some paved roads revert to gravel. They may also consider cutting back snow plowing.
    The announcement during a budget meeting should have been no surprise to the citizens of a nation where engineers have been raising the alarm about the nation’s failing infrastructure for decades.
    The American Society of Civil Engineers says that 1 in 9 of the nation’s 607,380 bridges are structurally deficient. The average age of bridges is 42 years and the society says bridges are generally designed to last for about 50 years.
    Locally, the county roads budget is facing shrinking revenue from gas taxes in Idaho, where the Legislature has failed to raise them for nearly 20 years. Fees from new developments have also declined.
    Former Republican Gov. Phil Batt chided the Legislature last week, saying that the 25-cents-per gallon tax set during his administration in 1996 was more than 20 percent of the price of gas at the time and that if it had remained the same, it would be 76 cents per gallon today.
    If the nation can’t fix its failing bridges even in heavily traveled urban areas, we doubt anyone is going to care if roads in Blaine County turn to dust—except the people who live near them or use them to travel to recreation sites.
    Heavily traveled dirt and gravel roads are anything but romantic. They’re unhealthy, Dust Bowl-dangerous axle-eaters that signal the decline of a once proud and prosperous county and state. As for the bridges that are cracking up, they are a Greek chorus of warning about what may lie ahead.




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