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Monday, June 14, 2010

City's Bridge Strategy: Spin And Stimulus

There was an amusing article in the Janesville Gazette over the weekend about the shoddy looking Jackson St. bridge in Janesville potentially qualifying for federal stimulus funds.
JG Excerpt:
The deteriorating bridge was built in 1918, and nearby residents such as Bill McCoy have advocated for years to improve the bridge.
Why not just say the bridge was built in 1918 and for the past decade and more, it was left to deteriorate into it's current condition ...on purpose. Here's the proof.
JG Excerpt:
The state requires all bridges in the city be inspected every two years. The bridge received a rating of 43 out of 100 after its recent inspection, Weber said. That means the bridge has aged enough since its inspection two years ago—when it received a rating of 55.7—to qualify for the federal funds, he said.
Of course it's not that the bridge "aged enough" to qualify for federal replacement funds since they don't reward funds based on age. More accurately the bridge couldn't age in just two short years to qualify for federal replacement funding unless it was allowed to "deteriorate" over the previous ten.
Transportation.Org Excerpt:
A bridge’s sufficiency rating affects its eligibility for federal funding for maintenance, rehabilitation, or replacement. For bridges to qualify for federal replacement funds, they must have a rating of 50 or below. To qualify for federal rehabilitation funding, a bridge must have a sufficiency rating of 80 or below.
Left unreported in the article is the the fact that earlier ratings including the (2008) 55.7 rating qualified the bridge for rehabilitation funds years ago. But city officials never bothered to apply. Apparently, they didn't want anyone to think they were ignoring the bridge.

Over the years, the city received many complaints from residents about the city's relative inaction to address the bridge's obvious safety and appearance problems. The city's response was typically "not to worry," that the decay was merely "cosmetic" and that the bridge was structurally sound. So many complaints since then that a "special" committee was set up just to disseminate information about the city's bridge strategy.
JG Excerpt:
The committee’s purpose is to help dispel misinformation about the bridge, Weber said. “People were stating we were ignoring the need to address this bridge,” he said.
Why in the world would anyone ever think THAT?

Bridgehunter Jackson St. Bridge Slideshow and other interesting information.


Anonymous said...

I am not an expert on bridge grading, but how does it degrade from 56 to 43 over a span of two years? It would be nice to have longer term data, but at that rate of degradation, it will be critically unsafe in 4-6 years. Perhaps there is a lot of subjectivity in the grading. Also, if the railing on the bridge were the railing on my backyard deck, the city would be all over me. A small kid could fall through the gaps in that bridge.

Lou Kaye said...

To Anon - The 2008 flood may have impacted the structural integrity of the bridge, but the acceleration of degradation would only happen if the bridge was not maintained over the past decade to protect itself from failure.

You've also hit on the obvious double standard between public and private code enforcement. Officials want us to believe its merely a natural condition of age to deliberately neglect public facilities if its total failure can capture funding. At the same time, they just don't want anyone to think they planned it that way. If private folks went the same route, they'd be viewed as a neglectful property owner, slumlord or a shady businessman always looking for a government hand-out Sort of like the owners of the Case Feed building.

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