Bridges All Fall Down?


Today is the first anniversary of the collapse of the Interstate 35 bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. The disaster killed 13 and injured 145 people. Today also happens to be the day when my colleagues at the Reason Foundation issue their 17th annual report on performance of state highway systems. The study calculates the effectiveness and performance of each state in 12 different categories, including traffic fatalities, congestion, pavement condition, bridge condition, highway maintenance costs, and administrative costs. It just might give you a clue as to how likely you are to inadvertently end up in a river near you.

The winner: North Dakota. The loser: New Jersey.

My own state of Virginia comes in at 16th. "Virginia ranked 16th in overall performance and cost-effectiveness. In last year's rankings, Virginia ranked 18th overall. Virginia is 22nd in urban interstate congestion, with 42.63 percent congested. The state tied for 1st in rural interstate condition and 28th in urban interstate condition. Virginia ranks 22nd in deficient bridges—23.10 percent of the state's bridges are deemed structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Virginia is 16th in the nation in fatality rates per 100 million vehicle miles traveled."

Check out how low your own state ranks in the highway circles of hell here. A Google map of the state rankings is here. For the full Reason Foundation study go here.

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  1. Lately there is a trend around the DC area to have contractors give two bids. The first is with contract stipulated wage rates, the second without. Whether or not you agree with mandatory wage rates (ie union protectionism) for govt jobs, people knowing the truth of the price premium cannot be but a good thing.

    It would be very interesting to see what happens if this was done for “affirmative action” requirements. Most state DOT’s consider FWHA “goals” as mandatory, as if they don’t meet the goals they loose Fed funds. If the american people realized how much this was costing, I don’t know if they’d think it was great or think it worthy of another tea party, but it would be nice if that data was available. Making it part of the bid is something that cannot be hidden, you can’t Obama-ize it away and claim that there’s fuzziness, “reasonable” errors, or any other bullshit. It’s a straight up number to show how efficient or inefficient we were being with our spending.

    It would be interesting, and perhaps not a coincidence that ND has probably one of the lowest AA requirements in the US. Having worked in the industry, I can say there are a number of firms that exist simply to “get the percentage”, and will carry a material or subcontract cost plus a 4-6% kicker to turn it into minority.

  2. If VA would just cut all of the bridges across the Potomac everything would improve greatly.

  3. And give us back our radar detectors!

  4. People who obey speed limits don’t need radar detectors. they are crime paraphernalia just like burglar tools, scales, and small plastic bags.

  5. Mr. Bailey?

    There seems to be a decent correlation between states with a lot of coastline (% wise) being at the bottom of that list, and states with a smaller amount of coast line being at the top. (I did not perform a regression analysis — just looking at it.)

    Is this true or am I just high? Is there a reason?

  6. This story reminded me of an obscure, but still wildly deranged, conspiracy theory, proving that Troofers will believe anything:

  7. New Jersey toll bridges all charge to leave the state. Entry is toll-free.

  8. I think there’s a pretty big difference between ‘structurally deficient’ and ‘functionally obsolete.’ Their perpendicular to each other really, one says if the bridge can hold a vertical load the other a horizontal load (traffic flow). They really deserve their own categories. It would be nice to know how many roads are going fall when I drive across them as opposed to how long I’m going to sit in traffic.

  9. Those rankings appear to correlate pretty closely to the cost of living ranks. Of course it’s going to cost more to hire a crew to lay asphalt in Alaska than in Maryland, and more in Maryland than in Mississippi.

    Comparing rankings on this list to rankings on cost of living would be interesting.

  10. Sorry Ron, but I live life in the fast lane. No time for the jibber jabber like reading where Mississippi is on the list.

    Also, radar detectors are illegal? Really?

  11. Brandybuck,

    The note at the bottom is pure comedy gold.

    [Ed. Note: The United States government actively seeks to find, and silence, any and all opinions about the United States except those coming from authorized government and/or affiliated sources, of which we are not one. No interviews are granted and very little personal information is given about our contributors, or their sources, to protect their safety.]

    The government doesn’t give a fuck about you retards, for the same reason they aren’t secretly taping the muttering bum you see outside the liquor store.

  12. NS,

    They are illegal in VA and DC.

    Radar jammers are illegal in more States.

  13. Also, radar detectors are illegal? Really?

    It’s just like stealing from the police.

  14. MO = 13. I know they’ve been laying a lot of asphalt the past couple of years. St. Louis has been repaving all summer. Out here in the boonies, they put a fresh coat on most of 63 between Rolla and Jeff (short for Jefferson City the State Capital). But I can’t figure out why, since it’s still a twisty two lane road any you can’t get around the John Deere rolling down the middle of it.

  15. Guy,

    Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold on a moment . . . are you saying that there really a civilian versions of a radar jammer?

  16. Speaking of the 35W bridge – the company selected to rebuild the bridge submitted the most expensive and lengthy proposal out of all of them. And after republican politicians in our state repeated over and over again that the RNC convention coming to minneapolis on sept 1st would not factor into the deadline whatsoever – the bridge may, in fact, be open by sept 1st.

  17. Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold on a moment . . . are you saying that there really a civilian versions of a radar jammer?

    LOL, yep and have been for ages!

    Some disagree on their effectiveness.

  18. Oh no. I moved from New Mexico, cost effectiveness rating (3rd) to Washington state (39th) a couple of years ago. It’s a long story, don’t ask…

    At least (from personal observation) it seems there are fewer drunks here (WA) than there (NM).

    Driving in NM I considered drunk drivers as much a hazard as failing bridges – more actually! In WA to me they they are only slightly more of a concern than a volcanic eruption or earthquake. I will admit I do not drive in urban areas so much now, not like I did when I lived in Albuquerque!

  19. Thanks Guy. Trouble with “Radar Roy” is that he was a cop and has an interest in spreading disinformation. I had an uncle in the air force who claimed to have salvaged an F-111 jammer and supposedly set it up in his Mustang which is why I didn’t know if there was a civilian version. Story he tells is that it would jam TV, radio, and cell phone signals. Needless to say I believe he may have taken it but I doubt it worked the way he claimed.

  20. Radar jammers actually emit a radar signal and as such would require an FCC license to operate I believe. They’re illegal nationwide. Laser jammers on the otherhand are currently legal in most states (not VA of course). I hate having to take down my detector everytime I hit the VA border.

    This is a great resource for radar / laser info:

  21. MH,

    If you get a bit, er, creative, with some IR cameras around your vehicle, you might be able to create a device that sees in the dark as designed and jam LASER.

    Probably something that messes up that idea, like different wavelengths of IR or something, so just a thought.

  22. Naga,

    Did your uncle drive with a lead cup? ‘Cuz otherwise, he might have cooked off all his swimmers…or worse.

  23. T19,

    One would not normally place that device on their lap. Usually want it installed in the grille, with all that metal between it and the passangers.

  24. Timon19,

    Whoa! That’s creepy cuz he’s sterile(don’t ask how I know)! Your making me think he was telling the truth!

  25. Guy,

    That might help, but it’s an F-111 jammer; it’s gonna put out some serious EM.

    There’s a reason they don’t want anyone walking anyone anywhere close in front of military a/c’s radome. Just think radar plus one the most powerful ECM suites in any plane ever.

  26. Guy,

    I’m sure that would work to some extent, however different brands of laser guns have different “pulse rates”. I think this requires the jammer to detect the laser first and then calibrate the outgoing laser for the specific beam it’s detecting.

  27. Coincidence or cause and effect?

    10 best states: 9 Red states and a swing state

    10 worst states: 7 Blue states, 2 swing states, and 1 Red state

  28. pgt | August 1, 2008, 2:38pm | #

    New Jersey toll bridges all charge to leave the state. Entry is toll-free.

    That’s because making people wait in toll lines to leave Philadelphia and New York City would cause massive suffering.

  29. New Jersey could fix its traffic problem by making double decker transport routes with trains on the bottom and highways above them.

  30. That google map has problems. The Maryland marker is over Delaware. The Delaware one is over New Jersey, and the New Jersey marker is somewhere over Long Island.

  31. The coastline thing might influence the rankings somewhat. Recently drove the road to Hana on Maui recently, with about a hundred bridges that would be automatically ranked as structurally deficient because they’re one way. This, of course, is the consequence of building a road along a sheer vertical cliff where you can spit out of your car window over the guardrails and it (hopefully the spit and not the car) will land in the ocean about a thousand feet below.

  32. Well as long as corruption runs amok in business and Government, its not going to matter. Self serving politicians and public figures are the “norm” today.


  33. Coincidence or cause and effect?

    10 best states: 9 Red states and a swing state

    10 worst states: 7 Blue states, 2 swing states, and 1 Red state

    Most of those red states are also “gimme” states, who suck way more from the Federal teat than they put in. Left to their own devices, I’m not so sure that North Dakota would have roads to speak of at all.

  34. Still waiting for the Reason study on the state of public transit…

  35. e,

    A study is needed for something that should not exist at all?

  36. Most of those red states are also “gimme” states, who suck way more from the Federal teat than they put in.

    Link to statistics on which are gimme states?

    Because Hawaii is WAY up on the gimme state ranking, and near the bottom for bridge ranking.

    I suspect the major cause for this is that blue state legislatures and municipalities tend to prioritize more taxes for social services and other “soft” spending, while red states are more focused on infrastructure, though blue states tending to be being located near coastlines and other challenging terrain would matter somewhat.

    At least, that’s how it certainly works here in Hawaii.

  37. “Link to statistics on which are gimme states?”

    I couldn’t find any, but this issue was brought up, say, about a year and a half ago on H&R. I just remember a particularly strong direct correlation between a state’s redness and the amount it sucked from the federal welfare tit. That’s what I remember anyway.

  38. Guy Montag: A study is needed for something that should not exist at all?

    Yeah, I’m wondering why Reason is even wasting time doing a study on public highways and bridges, since they shouldn’t exist either, right?

  39. Wow, Virginia actually ranks that well? I’ve driven all around the state, and the roads are terrible. I-81 down to Tennessee is a very unpleasant ride. And the roads all over metro D.C. have noticeably deteriorated since I moved here 15 years ago. It’s actually worse in Maryland. The roads there were great when I first moved here–some of the best I’ve seen. But it seems the quality of maintenance has dropped off recently.

    I suspect the contracting scams and prevailing wage stuff is the biggest reason. We had far better roads in this country in years past when our GDP was smaller.

  40. what does cost effectiveness mean in this context?? because when it comes to the bridge I am standing on not falling down, all i really care about is effectiveness. I’m pretty sure.

  41. North Dakota #1

    Hooray for our side, I guess. Actually, it’s a pretty nice place to live if you don’t mind the rural culture and sucky weather. Car insurance is dirt cheap here. Now if only we could something about the Jesus Camp mentality…

  42. “The winner: North Dakota.”

    There’s like three bridges here.

  43. e,

    I don’t think Reason is quite that anarcho. In any case, the fact that attempts to lure drivers off the roads and onto public transit systems have invariably failed outside of hyper-metropolises like NYC and DC, is all the study that’s needed.

  44. West Virginia has pretty nice roads.

  45. I dunno about how bad the highway bridges are in Illinois, but man oh man lots o’ railroad bridges I drive under consist of nothing but eroded concrete pillars with exposed rebar. Some of them are abandoned track so they’re not likely to fall, but others are right next to bustling railyards. One collapse and CN will be sued out of existence.

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