Those with Gephyrophobia Look Away

memorial bridge

41 Comment

  • Is there a chance there won’t be a $250 million overhaul? There’s been construction on that bridge for at least the last year. It’s a major artery into/out of VA.

    • They have been doing $5m basic repairs to keep it usable till the overhaul. The closure of the two outside lanes is not due to construction be the current poor condition of the bridge.

      I hope we can fix it – but this is representative of all sorts of decay of our basic infrastructure in this country. Raise the gas tax – and program in increases to keep pace with inflation and improvement in average MPG.

      • 100% agree. Raising the gas tax, and making sure it is entirely earmarked to maintain infrastructure, or build new roads, makes all kinds of sense to me. Even a modest increase would raise so much money. An extra $0.05 a gallon would cost me $1/tank, but raise $6.84B (based on the EIA estimate of 136.78 billion gallons of gas being used last year).
        .
        And before anyone says that taxes on gas will decrease the number of drivers, therefore tax revenues, I think modest increases (like a $0.05 – $0.10/gallon increase) will not have that much of an impact. Gas prices at the pump fluctuate by large amounts, week to week, and people still drive.

        • And if raising the gas tax led to fewer drivers – would that be a bad thing?

        • I don’t think it will decrease the number of drivers. Remember, most of MD/VA has no public transit whatsoever (or at best some very unreliable buses) so driving it a necessarily evil for a lot of us. Maybe it would result in more slug lines, but that’s about it.

          • As a regular user of the Fairfax Connector and RideOn, on which I’m frequently alone on the bus for the entire trip, I can tell you the buses out there are just fine. The 70s-80s era car-centric development (most of which are slowly being rebuilt) make it extremely annoying to get anywhere from the bus, but this is a fixable situation that would only be facilitated by continuing to reprioritize our infrastructure focus.
            .
            Or we could do nothing, and let people stomach the inconvenient walks because our bridges collapsed and they don’t have a choice but to use the metro tunnel.

      • We already pay gas tax to the Federal and State Governments. Why isn’t the money already being collected being used to maintain the roads? What makes anybody believe the various governments will actually use additional tax revenue from an increased tax to maintain the existing roads and bridges.

        I think we can all agree that various governments are not properly maintaining roads and bridges, but the skeptic in me does not believe that an increased tax will produce the desired results.

        • Accountering

          Simple answer, the gas tax you pay is not enough (or close) to cover the actual cost of maintaining roads. The last estimate I saw was that we should be spending 200 billion dollars/year simply to maintain what we have. Federal + State gas taxes bring in something like 50 billion, and we are spending 75 billion or so. As a result, we end up with bridges like this.

          • DC CapHill

            The last figure I heard quoted was something like this had not been updated since the 1970’s? How on Earth has a tax rate not been audited to reflect current conditions, especially when you know it’s 1/4 what is needed?

          • Politicians hate raising taxes in general, especially when it’s for something most people take for granted; it’s much easier to keep kicking the can further down the road (ahem) until it’s no longer feasible to do so.

          • Accountering

            If they had *JUST* indexed it to inflation when it was last raised in 93, it would be .38c/gallon now, instead of 18.3c. This whole thing is because legislators in the 90s weren’t willing to do a bit of hard work to get it indexed to inflation, and wanted to save less than a penny a year per gallon.

          • @accountering:
            Except that, unfortunately, indexing wasn’t even on the agenda in the early 90s. Back then the Highway Trust Fund was running annual surpluses, and the gas tax was increased to finance deficit reduction, not roads. Bud Shuster (Republican head of the House Transportation Committee) had to fight hard in the late 90s to free up the accumulated money in the HIghway Trust Fund for road work. It wasn’t until the Bush Jr. era that you started running into trust fund deficits – and of course by then tax increases were completely out of the picture.

      • I may be wrong, but my understanding of this situation is that even having more revenue for transportation infrastructure would not immediately help, because this is an NPS (un)maintained asset, and they don’t have the money to fix what they didn’t take care of. It will take special attention from outside of NPS to fix this.

        • +1. Exactly. This is funded through NPS’ appropriations, so it will require special attention from congressional appropriators. And a different set of congress-people if they want to raise the gas tax, and potentially another set to then authorize the NPS to use that revenue. And then those measure all have to pass.
          .
          I really like the idea of an optional donation at the gas pump for various projects like this.

          • Yep. The National Park Service has about $12 billion worth of maintenance projects across all national parks. About half of that total, so $6 billion, are for road, bridge, tunnel and other transportation projects. In the latest federal highway bill, which Congress passed and Pres. Obama signed into law a few months ago, there was a slight increase for funding to the National Park Service to address some of these projects but it’s not even close to enough to maintain the 10,000 miles of roadways managed by the Park Service (think Rock Creek, GW Parkway, Balt-Wash Parkway just in our area). If you’ve been to Yellowstone, you’ve probably noticed the crazy dropoffs along the side of the road. Obviously, the Memorial Bridge is a disaster. For those who vote in DC, we can’t do much but if you have family and friends who live outside our nation’s capital, please encourage them to talk to their members of Congress about getting them to invest in national parks. 2016 marks the centennial of the Park Service, so if not now, when?

  • The words I would like to use to respond to this would probably get my comment in moderation, so I will just stick with JFC, that’s crazy.

  • If that is some of what they are seeing right now maybe they should move the time table for closing it up to tomorrow…….

    I would feel bad for commuters but honestly I would feel worse (and so would they) if it failed while still in use.

  • That does not look like it could make it to next Wednesday, let alone 2021.

  • This is a channel diaphragm, not a primary load carrying member. The bridge isn’t going to fall down.

    • Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t diaphragms used to resist lateral loads, like those caused by earthquakes/wind/etc?

      If so, I’m correcting your statement to “The bridge isn’t going to fall down, unless perhaps we get another earthquake like a few years ago”

    • I’m no structural engineer. However:
      (i) If some parts of the bridge look like this, it’s certainly possible other parts are in similar disrepair, or not far behind.
      (ii) If it was unnecessary, they wouldn’t have built it.
      (iii) I generally think it’s a bad idea to leave repairs until something (especially a bridge!) is in danger of falling apart.

  • Maybe you have pantophobia. Do you have pantophobia?

  • Theyre going to close a major artery without any plans of fixing it and reopening it? Either this is some serious political gamesmanship or people have just given up trying to get along.

    • Any bets on how many Congressional members/staffers who could actually do something about this use this bridge? Probably a goodly number, which means there would at least be some direct point to the political gamesmanship rather than just something more like what happened in NJ a few months back. And frankly NPS, which owns and is responsible for maintaining the bridge, isn’t funded for such significant repairs, so it seems less like gamesmanship and more like a sensible decision if the alternative is people falling into the Potomac.

  • Accountering

    I think a better comment is: If you are thinking of voting Republican, look away. This is what not being willing to pay for nice things gets you! Low taxes, bridges falling apart, woohoo!

  • DC CapHill

    WTOP reported this morning that the current and ongoing construction was only supposed to kick the can down the road another ~5 years, but it needed a $250m total overhaul. I cannot imagine, no matter the price quoted, that the Memorial Bridge, between Arlington National Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial, will be permanently closed, ever.

    I’m all in for the gas tax, and it’s utterly disgusting anyone would oppose this after seeing the kind of rotting decay our infrastructure is suffering from currently. “We” have to pay taxes, and if “we” can’t agree to pay them when gas prices are sub-$2/gallon, when can we?

    They ought to add a button to the ‘gas rewards’ screen at the pump marked “Memorial Bridge Fund”, as I’d gladly forego my avg. savings of $1.20/tank to keep that bridge open and healthy for years to come.

    • Remember the actual collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis that killed 13 in August 2007? Did we get an increase in the gas tax to fix our deteriorating bridges then? Umm, no. Sigh.

    • Accountering

      While I appreciate the sentiment, I wouldn’t…. This is like when Buffett comes out and advocates for tax increases on the wealthy, and the Rs disingenuously ask him to write a check. National infrastructure takes national sacrifice, not one guy kicking in $12.

      • Absolutely. This is one of the core functions of government (and one of the few that the far right believes is a core function of government). Funding it should not be optional.

  • If it costs $250M to overhaul, how much does it cost to replace it? It seems like it would make more sense to keep it up and running and just build another one next to in so that there is no disruption. Than, either finish the overhaul allowing for east bound and west bound traffic to have their own dedicated lanes, or just make it a foot/bicycle bridge, or just knock it down altogether. I cannot imagine a short/simple bridge like that costing dramatically more than $250M to replace, although it is DC where things seems to cost at least twice as much and take twice as long to get implemented.

    • Accountering

      I would guess that to rebuild the bridge completely, including rerouting the roads is likely in the billion dollar range. There just isn’t that much space to operate on either side of the bridge.

  • I sure am glad I drive over that bridge twice a day!

  • I run over this bridge several times a week and in the early early hours of the morning I see the crews out working on it and I’m always thinking, how bad is it down there? Well now I know!

  • A few months back there was a restriction put in place that stated that buses and trucks were not allowed to use the bridge. I never have heard of the restriction being lifted, and only once did i see anyone enforcing this. I often see buses and trucks crossing the brig and there is never any enforcement, or officers in place to enforce. usually they are commercial vehicles that should be ticketed if they are restricted. Does anyone know about these restrictions? and if they are still in effect??

  • This is what happens when almost 25% of the total gas taxes collected nationwide are then reprogrammed away from road projects and funneled to transit projects.

    Remind me again how much revenue from transit fares are reprogrammed to pay for road projects again?

    Oh, thats right. Zero

    • Even if gas taxes went entirely into driving infrastructure, it wouldn’t be enough. Driving infrastructure is not running on the non-transit subset of gas tax revenue; it’s being paid for by various other general sources of revenue, which are being paid by pedestrians, transit-riders, bike-riders, and drivers alike. Just like your “free” parking spaces.

    • gas taxes are too low, with or without that. but note that providing better transit reduces the costs required for road maintenance or construction, so that 25% is in effect still paying for the roads you’re using.

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