Saturday, May 25, 2013
Roads and Bridges . . . and boats?
By now most people have seen the dramatic photos of the bridge collapse in Washington State. It's certainly something to think about while driving.
Thinking back, there's a least three major bridges that I've driven over that later collapsed. Two suffered structural failure. One was struck by a ship. Lucky for me, these failures happened while I wasn't on them. That doesn't make me particularly special, as many thousands of people cross questionable bridges every day.
There are a lot of bridges in the US that are well past their prime. Repairs get put off to some mystical future date when the economy is better. All to often that day never arrives, at least as far as bridge work goes. Basic maintenance is put off until small problems become huge problems. “Temporary” repairs become the only repairs.
While it's attention grabbing when a big bridge goes down, most people soon forget about it. That is, unless you happen to be one of the unlucky ones who's now isolated on the wrong side of the bridge. Short commutes become very long or impossible. Think about all the bridges you cross on a regular basis. Now imagine they are gone. How would your life be affected?
One place I love to go is the Florida Keys. It's a long series of islands connected by many bridges. There's a pretty high population density on those little islands. I always wonder what would happen if something destroyed one of those bridges. Imagine if a hurricane, earthquake, or terrorist event destroyed a number of the bridges at the same time. Not only would all those people be stranded, the one water pipeline that supplies the Keys is on the bridges.
I don't feel comfortable down there unless I'm on a boat or have one with me. I know a guy who worked on a island in the Northwest who kept a canoe on his work truck. It's an earthquake area and he didn't want to be stuck on the island.
If bridges are a big part of your life, maybe keeping a small boat with you might be a good idea. Perhaps even an inflatable in the truck of your car might be prudent. Bug out vehicles are nice, but if the bridge is out, you'll need a plan B.