It should happen so fast

Oregon lawmakers need to come up with quick remedy

Blog Entry December 05, 2014

Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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In a second” comes out quicker these days.
In fact, it almost overlaps my request for services involving my children.
“Aidan, take a showe– in a second, Dad.” It reads funny, but that is exactly how it sounds. However, I’ve become privy to the now-intrusive retort. It took me much more than a few seconds to figure out, but I now know children operate out of a totally different time dimension than normal humans. That tick of a clock can easily become the tock of the hour hand. So now the exchange goes like this: “Aidan, take a showe– in a second, Dad, no do it now.” I know, it comes at you fast, doesn’t it? 
In the adult world we all know a second comes at you much slower. I mean, you almost have time to take a half-breath, which is better than holding it through one of my lightning conversations with my eldest. In a half-breath, a city’s entire circulatory system could shut down. I’m talking about a bridge collapse, and the state of Oregon apparently has a few spans that would make the entire world gasp in horror at the day’s news. 
According to a couple of reports worked up by the Oregon Department of Transportation, the state needs $5.1 billion in a heartbeat, because structures like Portland’s Ross Island Bridge, the Interstate Bridge, the Astoria-Megler Bridge and the U.S. 30 Longview-Rainier Bridge do not stand a chance during a major earthquake. The roads are swallowing up cars, too, one pothole at a time, and if nothing is done soon Oregon, according to the report Rough Roads Ahead, could lose 100,000 jobs by 2035—more than twice the number of jobs lost in the state during the Great Recession.
Oregon has been proactive, about twice as much compared to other states, when tending to its infrastructure needs. The OTIA III State Bridge Program knocked out several bridge issues, and the mileage-based user fee experiment is like no other in the world.
Still, the response of some state legislators after learning their roads and bridges might create a five-alarm emergency went like this: “Yeeeeessssss. Weeeeee apppparrreeenntlyyyy neeeed toooooo soooorrrt sooooommmme thiiiiingsssss ouuuuuuut.” I know, annoyingly slow, isn’t it? 
OK, to be fair, here is what Rep. Tobias Read had to say: “It’s clear that we’re coasting on the fumes of investments that our grandparents and parents made in infrastructure.” 
Yes, and as we know when parents (or in this case, their legacy) ask for something to be done the response should be immediate, and the timetable for the action should be tagged with urgency. The mileage-based user fee pilot program, although revolutionary, seems like it was first talked about during the Revolution that involved Red Coats and Paul Revere. It’s been at least a decade, and I would think a mechanism like this that could generate millions and millions of real road-user-fee dollars would have been implemented much faster. Now, Oregon is looking at a series of bridges that could be a second away from the worst possible event.
We all know another collapse is coming. Inactive members of Congress have spent the last few years sharpening this guillotine, yet what still surprises me is when local officials are staring at the warning right on paper and they have to fight off the yawn when asked about the situation. Money and action—they both need to come out quicker these days. 

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