Traffic coming off I35 Bridge, looking South

Originally uploaded by Mordac whose website can be found here.
The recent problems in Minnesota, New York City, and according to Craig Nulan, Montreal, and Saint Louis, all reveal the growing problems in managing our infrastructure. Many of the roads and bridges built during the first major wave of highway construction were overdesigned, so if the specs say that the structures can bear 100 tons, they can likely bear 200.

But this assumes constant maintenance. Which also assumes money to pay maintenance workers, to train maintenance workers. This also assumes education to train people to become maintenance workers. It is easy, perhaps too easy, to blame the current administration.

Make no mistake, particularly given the recent attempt of Tony Snow to blame this on the states (go to the “questions” section of the press release), the current administration does bear a great deal of responsibility. Not just because they happen to be the ones in charge and the highway system is clearly the responsibility of the federal government. But because the ideology they support–conservatism–is at base an anti-government ideology that rails against the use of the federal government for any purpose other than national offense and incarceration.

However they are not alone. John Edwards is the first major democratic presidential candidate to talk earnestly about economic inequality, and to a lesser extent racial inequality. Has any candidate over the last 30 years suggested devoting the billions of dollars needed to make sure our roads continue to work? Our bridges?

Apocalyptic movies like Mad Max, Escape from New York, and the like rarely say exactly how the world went to hell. But I don’t think it starts with a nuclear holocaust. It starts like this. A bridge crumbles here, a series of pipes burst there. There is a brief blip of public awareness, then back to business. But the ties that link cities to one another dwindle. The ties between individuals in cities dwindle.

Those gardens are starting to look better and better every day. Craig and Cobb are beginning to think seriously about this issue. We all should.