WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

DelDOT's abrupt closure of I-495 for faulty bridge columns: Evidence of America's declining infrastructure

When it comes to highways and traffic congestion in Delaware, it seems we can't win.

Not long after DelDOT opened that I-95 to Route One "fly-by" alongside Christiana Mall - in hopes of relieving some of the traffic gridlock, particularly Friday afternoons and weekends during the beach season (although I still see back-ups) - DelDOT closed I-495 until further notice following the discovery of four support columns out of alignment under the Christina River bridge.

DelDOT got a report about an anomaly late Friday, but the bridge closure didn't come until Monday at 6 p.m.

So look for increased congestion along I-95 for the forseeable future.

The bridge was last inspected in October of 2012. One wonders: How many other (undiscovered) bridge anomalies might exist in Delaware?

We had already heard about the problems with highway infrastructure in Pennsylvania: The Keystone State has the third largest number of bridges in the United States, but the greatest proportion of bridges rated as "structurally deficient." That term doesn't automatically mean "unsafe", but suggests the need for further monitoring. The average age of PA bridges: More than half a century old.

It seems as though we're facing another perfect storm in this country. Most major interstate highways (and bridges) were constructed in the era of Eisenhower--Kennedy--Johnson. Yet cash-strapped state legislatures (not to mention the Feds) often have little appetite to authorize ambitious road improvements. Sometimes, they transfer the costs to higher tolls. Have you driven across the swath of Pennsylvania on the Pennsylvanian Turnpike lately?

But yes, a perfect storm: Decaying infrastructure. Aging baby-boomers. Rapidly escalating higher education costs - even for public universities - as state legislatures appropriate smaller and smaller percentages to those institutions, with the result of college grads incurring greater and greater debt, without necessarily landing the well-paying jobs to pay down that debt. Workers with stalled wages, or the barest of incremental increases.

Yet certain politicians seem to resist curbing U.S. military commitments anywhere. And the rhetoric of the coming 2014 mid-term election campaign and the 2016 Presidential campaign may focus comparatively little on the above.

Posted at 7:02am on June 3, 2014 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Tue, Jun 3, 2014 10:08am
Can you imagine if this had happened while I-95 was closed for repaving several years ago? Or, God forbid, one of the I-95 bridges were found to be structurally compromised while they're working on the 495 bridge? Delaware would practically shut down with both of those arteries closed. It's going to be a fun summer...

Tue, Jun 3, 2014 10:12am
This is an ongoing issue and gets to the heart of what is bad for America.

As any business person knows, one has to upkeep ones physical plant, your infrastructure... What most good business people do, is budget a percent to be designated for maintenance and upkeep. (Knowing it is better to have a certain amount designated per month, instead of getting used to have lots of extra money sitting around, and then boom, having to lose money several months in a row to pay for a major repair....)

Some sharp businesses use the first approach; others use the second. When a business suddenly disappears, it is usually because they chose the second method....

As a nation we once had high marginal tax rates of 94%. It then dropped to 77%, then 70%... Ronald Reagan's Great Tax Cut, dropped it to 50%... In his second term, the top marginal rate dropped to 28%...which caused the Bush I recession and Clinton, in his first month, got Congress to bounce up to 39.6% and we had the greatest economic expansion in US history... Based on the economy, that level seems ideal. It worked; everything was in perfect balance. The Bush Tax Cuts dropped the rate to 35%... and in retrospect, that drop led us to being unbalanced, as evidenced simply based on the economy, deficit, and demise of the middle class...

When detractors say higher taxes stop growth, they are ignoring all of history which says the exact opposite. America grew like never before between 1946 and 2000... If we ever want growth like that again, our wealthy will have to pay the fair price.

Why is this important? Because as in business, if one does not take in enough money, one is in danger of failing and going bankrupt. Despite the Bush tax cuts, huge new expenditures were added in the Bush years. and the US began coming up short every year...

As with any business, when expenses are more than revenue, one must cut expenses. That failed policy is what the Tea Party offered. Originally standing for Taxed Enough Already, the Tea Party has abandoned that clause, they never discuss it anymore...

Because we have cut now for 12 years... (beginning in 2002), we are now cutting not extras, but our essential necessities... And we are doing it for the sole reason that we choose not to grab new revenue... which like a branch laden with apples, is bending over right within our reach.

Which puts us in the ironical situation where we let the top 100 people in this country double (200% gains) their wealth every year, while we tighten our belts just so they can...

Since our government is currently running the leanest and meanest it ever has, under the expert tutelage of the Democratic President and responsible Democratic Senate financial experts, the time is right to tax those who can certainly well afford it, and use those finances to redo our infrastructure....

To complain that America is falling apart without looking at the Republican party's tax cuts as being why, is immature and very unbalanced. In fact is is just plain silly. Our first agenda now has to be to tax the top, and tax them for as much we need; then we can begin running America like it is a responsible business. Not like it has been under the Republicans, where as is done by venture capitalists who have only one agenda, ... to squeeze out every penny then shove what's left into bankruptcy court so they can't be blamed, where it can be bought cheap by someone else (China or Russia) as if it were in a sheriff's sale....

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jun 4, 2014 8:35am
It hasn't been many years ago when that same bridge was rebuilt due to a tractor trailer crashing & the fire being so bad it warped the beams of the bridge . Allan should be able to find that news story in WDEL's news archives for more details.

The question that comes to mind is, did whomever did those repairs do the correctly or was this new problem due to do shoddy engineering and/or construction? If yes then those companies should be footing the bill. If no then do they know what happened? This is not a hundred year old bridge Allan referenced in his piece.

Wed, Jun 4, 2014 10:18am
Mike: Good questions & perspective...you're right, this bridge isn't ancient and was repaired not too long ago. The first step should be looking into the engineering/construction of the bridge and looking at those involved in the repairs (if in the same location on bridge now declared as unsafe).

Wed, Jun 4, 2014 6:28pm
Now it appears according to WDEL that a contractor was dumping dirt illegally on the side of the embankment and the weight of that caused the bridge abatements to shift.

Why was this contractor dumping illegally? Because he could. There is no one watching. Why is there no one watching? Two reasons. Republicans have cut back on government, period. And because of their cries that regulation is swamping business. They still clamor that we have too much regulation now, when, in fact, we have far less than we did in the 50's and 60's when America was booming....

That we have too much regulation is a lie. You see with this bridge, exactly why regulations are there in the first place....

I hope that every single driver is made aware that it is the Delaware Chamber of Commerce's fault (indirectly)that is causing them to prolong their commute by hours now....

I hope with every minute passing, they realize the goodness of regulations and why we need regulations to keep businesses in check, and that the next time a Republican opens his mouth and says we need to get rid of regulations.... they swear on a stack of bibles to never, ever, ever, vote Republican again.....

Republicans may not have actually caused the bridge to shift, but they are certainly the ones to blame....

We should take that dirt and dump it on the sidewalk in front of the Chamber of Commerce's Headquarters there on Orange Street.... It's their fault; it should be their problem, and... send them the bill.......

Business used to be the saviors of America. They are now the criminals. Bigger government is the proper salvation.... Don't believe me? You are obviously not stuck in this Republican caused traffic jam then....

Wed, Jun 4, 2014 8:03pm
kavips: Yeah bigger government that releases terrorists for a deserter is what we really need to solve all our problems.

I guess I should point out that 495 is not a total loss. You can still get off at P.O.W. and get back on at Edgemoor, for what it's worth.

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jun 4, 2014 9:44pm
So WDEL reported about this contractor dumping dirt illegally, so what charges are being leveled against that contractor ? What sort of puny fine (the cost of doing business will be this contractor pay? That's what needs to be broadcast loud & clear. They should have to essentially pay it all or until the contractor's business goes belly up and he's pennyless, and then throw his butt into jail for a spell. That would send a strong message that this sort of crap will not be tolerated in Delaware. Of course, we all know that won't happen, so, as usual, the taxpayers will bear the cost while that contractor isn't punished at all. He won't go to jail because he wouldn't do well in prison & probably is a friend of a friend of ........

Wed, Jun 4, 2014 10:55pm
Kavips blames everything wrong in the world on Republicans... since there are almost NONE in Democrat-run Delaware how is it even possible to place blame on a Republican? LOL!

And, fewer regulations under our current leader? Hmmm...
In his first five years in office, President Obama has added 17,522 pages of regulations -- that's an 11 percent increase in the size of the regulatory state and an average of 3,504 pages each year. President Bush's total eight years in office, on the other hand, resulted in a total of 2,490 pages each year.

Thu, Jun 5, 2014 3:56am
Earl: Don't mind Kavips. He probably thinks the Taliban and Al-Qaida are Republican operatives.

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