I was flooded this morning with notes from readers about a story for today's New York Times. It described how a bridge in Boston was replaced over a weekend.
By using “accelerated bridge construction” techniques, a collection of technologies and methods that can shave months if not years off the process of building and replacing critical infrastructure, Massachusetts is at the forefront of a national effort that is aimed at putting drivers first.
No need to bother to ask the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department to explain why such techniques couldn't be employed in Arkansas, say at the Broadway Bridge the department is so anxious to replace. (Although there's no evidence it is unsafe or that the maintenance of the concrete structure, at $90,000 a year or so, is that expensive.)
The most pertinent part of the article was this:
“The highway department didn’t use to see the drivers as customers,” said Frank DePaola, administrator of the highway division for the department. “For a while there, the highway department was so focused on construction and road projects, it’s almost as if the contractors became their customers.”
I urge you to remember this truism when you consider the sales tax increase highway officials want you to pass this November. Remember it, too, when you are losing valuable time and money during the two years of traffic nightmare that will ensue when the AHTD shuts down the Broadway Bridge for a replacement that, now, only they seem to want. Call AHTD. Ask them to join the local mayors in a push for a longer-range, better plan. Build another crossing upriver, then convert the Broadway bridge to a landmark plaza for walkers, bikers, sightseers.