Bridge debacle foreshadows bullet train mega-debacle

Brooklyn-BridgeMay 22, 2013

By Chris Reed

Mankind has been building bridges for more than 3,000 years. A bridge built in the 13th century BC in Greece is still in use.

Building durable bridges over water is not a modern accomplishment. The Roman Empire liked to build simple arch bridges over rivers and put up hundreds and hundreds all over Europe. Quite a few are still in use.

But building more complex bridges over water, such as the suspension Brooklyn Bridge completed in 1883, is also old hat. It’s not rocket engineering, as Sergio Garcia would say. It’s daunting to outsiders but no big deal to those in the biz.

Except if you’re the genius engineers working for the state of California, who somehow managed to botch the $6.4 billion east span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge by neglecting basic practices meant to reduce water corrosion on giant steel beams and by tolerating flawed welds and an abnormally high number of broken bolts.

Let’s probe and probe and probe some more

State lawmakers increasingly sound like they’re in a let-the-heads-roll mood over the fiasco, the Sacramento Bee reports:

“Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, a member of the transportation committee and an engineer, said the opening date must be delayed if safety remained in doubt. … Cannella and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, called for a comprehensive investigation . …

“He said that the state attorney general, federal officials, or his own committee should conduct the probe. It should require California Department of Transportation executives to testify under oath and compel them to produce internal documents that show who made decisions that led to the current problems, who dissented in those decisions and why, DeSaulnier said.

“‘With the level of personal exposure right now (for Caltrans officials) … there is always the concern that there is documentation that gets lost or destroyed,’ he said.”

State can’t do simple project — but it can pull off an unprecedented one?

train_wreck_num_2So the state government botches an engineering project as rudimentary as a bridge, and now we’re supposed to believe it is up to the challenge of building a bullet train system that costs $68 billion, more than 10 times as costly and a thousand times more difficult?

Sheesh. Why don’t we wait until the winter and just the burn the money in alleys where homeless people sleep? At least it will keep them warm and achieve something constructive.

If you think the state can rise to the occasion, perhaps it’s time you changed or increased your medication. Or maybe you just missed the story about the incredible complexity of the bullet train project.

Or the story about how the geniuses running the California High-Speed Rail Authority quietly rewrote the bidding rules to favor the least competent bidder for construction of the initial 29-mile segment in the Central Valley.

Yeah, that makes sense: Give the toughest project to the bidders with the least expertise. Sheesh again.

Look on the bright side: Watching debacle unfold will be fun

I’m beginning to reach the tipping point on the bullet train. Rationally, of course, I don’t want it to go forward. It’s going to be such a waste of money that could be spent much better elsewhere (or returned to taxpayers). But both ideologically and on schadenfreude grounds, I now am very open to the idea that it will be great fun for critics to watch the bullet train proceed and be the mega-debacle it’s very likely to be.

It will once again remind voters how inefficient and incompetent government is, especially on ambitious projects. But even more satisifying will be how the fiasco will hang like a permanent shadow over the reputations of Jerry Brown, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Karen Bass, John Perez, Darrell Steinberg, Dan Richard and the editorial boards of the Los Angeles Times, the Sacramento Bee, the San Jose Mercury-News and the San Francisco Chronicle. On the bullet train, they’re chumps one and all.


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  1. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 22 May, 2013, 08:49

    “I now am very open to the idea that it will be great fun for critics to watch the bullet train proceed and be the mega-debacle it’s very likely to be.”

    It will indeed be great fun, but to no avail. The brain dead, ProgBot voters of this state are so clueless and morally decrepit that they won’t ever question their own voting habits. They are immune to reason, logic and fact. No matter what sort of hopeless, tyrannical, dysfunctional left wing mess Crazyfornia becomes things won’t change for the better. This states voters make a village idiot look like a genius and it’s Corruptocrat politicians make a banana republic look like utopia.

    Say, did you hear that Justin Beiber lost custody of his monkey and Kim Kardashian has fat lips because she’s pregnant? And Tom Cruise’s daughter has changed her hair style 3 times this year, and someone took a picture of Sharon Stone without makeup! This is the kind of stuff that’s really important, so who cares if the Corruptocrats are stealing our money and our liberty and reducing us to helpless vassals.

    In the twilight of The Republic it’s all about panum et circenses

    Reply this comment
  2. Hondo
    Hondo 22 May, 2013, 09:17

    I thought Justin Beaver was Kim Kardashian’s monkey and it was the monkey who was the one caught without makeup. I can never keep these stories straight.

    Reply this comment
  3. Don't panic yet
    Don't panic yet 22 May, 2013, 11:29

    I’m still holding to a prediction that the bullet train mega-debacle will never happen beyond a silly symbolic groundbreaking in July 2013.

    They aren’t getting any more federal funding and they have failed to attract private or municipal investment. Everyone WANTS money from California High-Speed Rail. They don’t want to GIVE money to it.

    Also, watch the Kings County Proposition 1A lawsuit to be heard at Sacramento County Superior Court on May 31.

    Someone needs to stop the California State Treasurer from selling those Prop 1A bonds, before it’s too late.

    Reply this comment
  4. Sean Morham
    Sean Morham 22 May, 2013, 12:26

    In 15 years, the first portion of HSR will be used to transport some of the Golden State’s 10 million prison inmate population. Such is progress.

    Reply this comment
  5. us citizen
    us citizen 22 May, 2013, 15:18

    Oh and here I thought, the HSR, was so the illegals could get from place to place faster. Silly me.

    Wow….Justin Beiber is a monkey with fat lips and is married to Tom Cruise’s fat daughter!?

    Reply this comment
  6. David in Irvine
    David in Irvine 23 May, 2013, 12:36

    Hey Chris, what did a Project Labor Agreement look like in Greek 3200 years ago?

    Reply this comment

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