Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bridge / No Bridge

This is approved design for the Columbia  River Crossing, the replacement for the Interstate Bridge that now connects Interstate 5 from  Oregon to Washington.  It really doesn't qualify as a bridge:  it's simply the place where the freeway crosses the river. The sole criterion for the decision was the $3.6 billion price tag, even though there were far better alternatives that didn't cost much more.

It will be a suitable monument to a culture that aspires to nothing -- the product of a political process that "knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."  [Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan, 1893]

While mediocrity rules and infrastructure decays at home, the U.S. will spend $4.4 trillion on post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. The noneconomic human cost -- including such "externalities" as 225,000 deaths, nearly 8 million refugees and generalized misery -- is incalculable. The cost of a lost opportunity, such as an iconic bridge on the Columbia, hardly deserves mention in this context, but it will exact its own toll over time.

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