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Friday, August 03, 2007

PATIENCE!

Yesterday a bridge collapsed, today we see the collapse of patience among some pundits bent on castigating their favorite political foes.

Strib columnist Nick Coleman blamed Governor Pawlenty for his No New Taxes pledge that led to vetoing the 5 cent per gallon gas tax hike. Coleman conveniently ignores that only 60% of gas taxes are actually used for roads. Last year, Minnesota even amended its constitution to reduce this percentage and devote more gas tax dollars to choo-choo trains.

How typical of the liberal mindset. The solution to all that ails us is another tax. Not what government does with taxpayer dollars, but another tax – any tax – even a 5 cent gas tax devoted to choo-choo trains will solve our transportation infrastructure problem. Of course, the only infrastructure that seems to matter these days are a pair of steel rails.

Coleman also takes liberty with the "structurally deficient" rating that this bridge received in 1990. Further, he takes liberty with the "50" rating that it received out of a possible "100".

Those of us who listened to early news reports learned that the bridge inspection-ease term "structurally deficient" does NOT mean "structurally unsound" or "about to collapse". And, that a "50" rating does NOT mean 50% safe as Coleman implies.

Sadly, in the hours that have followed, media outlets nationwide seem bent on being the first to report a government scandal and have jumped all over the words "structurally" and "deficient". Even if their reports eventually explain that putting these two words into a department of transportation rating system does not equate to catastrophic failure.

It could well be that previous inspections identified a crack that ultimately failed. It could also be that these cracks held true throughout the collapse. 30 hours after the disaster, we simply don't know what happened.

This bridge has stood for 40 years and shouldered the limousines of governors from three different parties. There may be plenty of blame to go around. It could well be that most of that blame lies within the cracks of our collective understanding of structural engineering.

Before we seek to blame our favorite political foes, perhaps a little patience is in order.

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