Saturday, July 8, 2017

It's More Than Just Potholes

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

President Barack Obama tried on numerous occasions to address the problem of America's crumbling infrastructure, a wise use of money that would not only have repaired the roads, bridges, rails, and airports on which Americans depend and travel daily, it would have also provided thousands and thousands of good jobs and benefited the economy immensely.   Republicans in Congress, all of whom represented constituents who would have personally benefited from government spending on  improving the nation's infrastructure, nevertheless stayed in lockstep with their leaders and refused to move on the issue, primarily out of fear of doing anything that might make President Obama look good - even though their inaction was causing injury and death to people they were elected to serve.

When Donald Trump came into power it was suddenly permissible in Republican circles to start talking about infrastructure again, and in the process try to blame the steadily growing problem on Democrats.  Why hadn't their President done anything while he was in office? Why indeed!

Trump made a campaign pledge saying that he would spend one trillion dollars on infrastructure.  After his first budget came out, that campaign promise appeared to be largely smoke and mirrors.  Trump's plan called for reducing infrastructure expenditures from $250 billion by twenty-percent to just $200 billion, and then developing a plan where private companies would fund the remaining $800 billion over the next ten years.

Hello turnpikes and toll bridges - and goodbye Amtrak.

So basically the federal government is planning on doing even less in regard to repairing our failing infrastructure than it was able to accomplish during the Obama years when Congress was actively blocking improvements to roads, bridges, and airports.  The federal government, at best, will continue to dribble out money to the states to keep filling potholes.

But it's more than just potholes.

A few weeks ago the rural area in which I live, an area that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, suffered what has been referred to as a five-hundred-year flood.  Massive amounts of damage were done to local homes and businesses, most of which were not covered by flood insurance.  And, not surprisingly, serious damage was also suffered by local infrastructure.

The extent of that damage was brought home to me last weekend when I took my out-of-state visitors out to a favorite swimming hole.  I wanted my daughter and her children to enjoy the beach at Devil's Backbone State Park in Ozark County, about fifteen miles from West Plains.  I hadn't been there in several months, not since my son and his family enjoyed a swim at the scenic spot last fall.

As were were driving down the final hill toward the park, a sign suddenly appeared along the roadway warning, "Bridge Out."  The large highway bridge just past the park had been completely destroyed by the recent flood waters.  To complicate the situation, hundreds of large trees had also been pushed over by the flood waters.  It was Armageddon on the North Fork.

I had heard that some of the rural bridges had been washed away, but this was a major highway bridge.  It turns out there were others.  The repair and cleanup costs would be astronomical.

Then a day or two later our local newspaper reported that the state had let contracts on that particular bridge and one other.  The contract price for the highway bridge out by Devil's Backbone was $2,797,915!   That was just for one bridge of several that will have to be replaced, expenses that had not been anticipated or budgeted - an expenditure of near three million dollars which means a helluva lot of potholes will have to go unfilled.

Smoke and mirrors won't fill the potholes, Donald, and they damned sure won't resurface roads, rebuild bridges, fix and extend runways, or even build a useless wall.  America's infrastructure requires real money  - and it requires it now - and if that means unplugging a war somewhere and bringing that money home, so be it.  Maybe if you would get out of your bubble of privilege and ride around on some real American roads and cross some shaky, old American bridges you would get a sense of what life in the rest of these United States is actually like.

Real life happens where the rubber hits the road, and the quality of that life is directly related to the quality of the roads.    People who voted for Donald Trump down here in the Ozarks are busy figuring new ways to get across the river so they can get to work or just buy groceries.  That's real life in America, and it's a lot more complicated than just hopping from one private golf course to another on government helicopters.

Come see us, Donnie, and enjoy a drive across our beautiful hills and hollers - but bring some comfortable shoes in case you have to get out and walk!

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