By all accounts the Interstate 5 bridge collapse in Washington State was a result of an over sized truck load as opposed to “failing infrastructure.” But a plea for greater federal spending figured prominently in many reports on the accident nonetheless.
Naturally, many on the left stampeded immediately to decrying “austerity,” or accused the Republicans of “endangering lives” by opposing big government, while still others blamed the sequester as news of the collapse spread.
In the progressive media, infrastructure also featured prominently in coverage.
CNN, for instance, injected Obama’s call for higher spending in its piece. USA Today also claimed that the bridge collapse would “raise questions about the nation’s infrastructure.” Reuters focused on a call for “public officials to invest in infrastructure and upgrade bridges.” The Associated Press joined Reuters in that focus. And, not to be outdone, Bloomberg said, “The bridge’s collapse put a new focus on the nation’s failing infrastructure, an issue that President Barack Obama has highlighted in his second-term agenda.”
Sadly, the Voice of America also used the collapse as a means to talk about Obama’s spending wants.
The Week Magazine was particularly shrill saying that while it was a miracle that no one was killed, “Miracles aren’t a viable public policy.” The magazine then went on to call for more government spending.
Another common narrative the media is employing is that this collapse “brings to mind” the collapse of the I-35 bridge near Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2007. But these two incidents are not really very similar at all.
With the 2007 collapse in Minneapolis, the bridge fell as a result of government malfeasance. The I-35 bridge was upgraded improperly resulting in stress on the span and its ultimate collapse. In the Washington State case it was more like just an accident as it has been determined that a truck attempting to cross the bridge was simply too large and too heavy for the structure to withstand.
Reports do say that the span was labeled as “functionally obsolete” in a database compiled by the Federal Highway Administration, but this doesn’t mean that the span was dangerous or crumbling necessarily.
Among other news sources, NBC noted that the bridge had been inspected numerous times.
This I-5 bridge over the Skagit River at Mount Vernon was described by the Washington State Department of Transportation, after an inspection in August 2010, as “somewhat better than minimum adequacy to tolerate being left in place as is.”
State inspection reports submitted to the Federal Highway Administration were reviewed by NBC News. That overall evaluation of the structural condition on the bridge corresponds to a score of 5 on a scale from 0 (worst) to 9 (best).
The bridge received identical scores on inspections in 2010, 2008 and 2006, and is on a schedule for inspection every 24 months, as generally required by federal regulations. State officials said Thursday evening they were working to make public a copy of the latest inspection report, presumably from 2012.
This is a terrible event, of course, but it seems that the state of Washington had done its due diligence by inspecting the bridge several times over the last few years, so it doesn’t seem to be any negligence by authorities.
So, if this was a result of not enough government spending on “infrastructure” then just where did Obama’s stimulus spending for the area go? It seemed to go all over the place, but not toward “infrastructure.”
Some spending went to fish. According to fsrn.org, “In Washington State’s Skagit River Valley a multi-million dollar stimulus fund project to restore habitat for endangered salmon, protect farmland from flooding and create jobs is nearing completion.”
Investigations are ongoing and we will all learn more as these probes continue.