by Pam Martens and Russ Martens, Wall St On Parade:
During his first week in office, Donald Trump issued an executive order stating that it “is the policy of the executive branch” to “secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border” with Mexico. Researchers have put the cost of the wall at $15 to $25 billion. That price tag would come to a nation with a staggering national debt of $19.9 trillion and a D+ rating on its critical infrastructure that plays an essential role in the country’s economic growth and ability to pay its debt.
Every four years the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) releases a comprehensive assessment of the U.S. infrastructure. The last report was released in 2013 giving a D+ rating to U.S. infrastructure. (The next report is due in March of this year.) The 2013 report found that drivers in the U.S. are making two hundred million trips daily across deficient bridges in the nation’s 102 largest metropolitan regions. The worst region for structurally deficient and/or functionally obsolete bridges is where the President of the United States tools around. According to ASCE’s 2013 report card, “the nation’s capitol tops all 50 states, with 77 percent or 185 of 239 bridges in the District of Columbia falling into at least one of these categories.”
Since 2000, there have been multiple bridge collapses across the U.S. This is how the National Transportation Safety Board describes the worst of these:
“About 6:05 p.m. central daylight time on Wednesday, August 1, 2007, the eight-lane, 1,907-foot-long I-35W highway bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, experienced a catastrophic failure in the main span of the deck truss. As a result, 1,000 feet of the deck truss collapsed, with about 456 feet of the main span falling 108 feet into the 15-foot-deep river. A total of 111 vehicles were on the portion of the bridge that collapsed. Of these, 17 were recovered from the water. As a result of the bridge collapse, 13 people died, and 145 people were injured.”
The NTSB investigation identified the following: “insufficient Federal and State procedures for reviewing and approving bridge design plans and calculations; lack of guidance for bridge owners with regard to the placement of construction loads on bridges during repair or maintenance activities; exclusion of gusset plates in bridge load rating guidance; lack of inspection guidance for conditions of gusset plate distortion; and inadequate use of technologies for accurately assessing the condition of gusset plates on deck truss bridges.”
The I-35W bridge had been built in the early 1960s and opened to traffic in 1967. It was 40 years old at the time of its collapse. There had been multiple reports of fatigue cracking dating back to 1998 with a series of repairs conducted.
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