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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A trillion for Iraq...

We all have our own horror stories. For me, it's walking over the BU Bridge and looking at the Charles below -- through the missing pieces of concrete. Driving over that bridge is something I do as little as possible.

The horrible collapse of the 35W Bridge in Minneapolis is simply the most graphic demonstration of the fouled up priorities of the richest nation on nation.

The Congressional Budget Office reported this week that Iraq is on target to cost American taxpayers $1 trillion. That's $1,000,000,000,000. That includes money to pay for troops and equipment. And it includes money to rebuild schools, hospitals, roads, bridges and other basic infrastructure. Wish we spent that money in New Orleans. Or Minneapolis. Or Boston.

Infrastructure. The word does not trip off the tongue, unless your native language is policy wonk. But it is the roads, bridges, public transportation, water and sewer systems we need for our daily existence.

Our water and sewer system is first rate -- thanks to a court order forcing the clean-up of Boston Harbor. The rest, well, not so hot. Things have been popping -- literally -- as manhole covers come loose for as yet inadequately explained reasons. The Mass. Pike tunnel ceiling collapse, while a spectacular infrastructure failure, is more a product of incompetence than neglect.

But back to the bridges. Massachusetts has 588 "structurally deficient" bridges -- the category of the 35W Bridge before it plummeted into the Mississippi. Nationally, that number is more than 13,000, or 13.1 percent of all bridges.

Massachusetts faces an transportation infrastructure "gap" of $15 to $19 billion over the next 20 years.

The Storrow Drive Tunnel is toast; the Longfellow Bridge and its distinctive salt and pepper towers is endangered; the aforementioned BU Bridge. All three of these are just along a short stretch along the Charles. The Herald singles out five bridges in Lowell. It is everywhere.

The answer? It's all about setting aside money to pay for it. You think it would be simple. But you would be wrong.

Just this week, we saw another call to eliminate the state income tax. There is the matter of squandered human and fiscal capital in Iraq. It's all part of a problem fostered by "leaders" who make taxes the enemy without offering solutions to the real problems.

So think about that driving over a bridge. Or a manhole cover. Is it worth a few more pennies a day for each of us to feel a little safer?

And don't get me started about the T.

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