David and I attended the taping of an MPR broadcast, scheduled for Friday, August 17, noon, this evening. There was a seemingly arbitrary choice of "panelists" which included Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak, an economist, some sort of political "expert" from the University of Minnesota, and a few other people whose names all escape me. I'm not usually politically overt. I listen quietly, hope I don't get too riled up, and hope for the best.
Well, the best didn't happen last week when the bridge fell down. One of the questions for the evening was what does the public expect from our infrastructure?
The only consensus seemed to be that we should be able to drive across a bridge and not have it fall down.
Then there were arguments about whether we should be pouring money into rapid transit or maintenance of the roadways we currently have. Not: can we pay for both!
One panelist stated there was more than enough money if only someone would spend it to keep drivers safe from falling bridges. One panelist said there isn't enough money to do that. Mayor Rybak said there wasn't enough money to build roads to everyone's home. Another panelist said that, in fact, there has always been enough money for that because roads do, indeed, lead to everyone's home.
Show me where someone lives they can't get to or from via a roadway!
One question was what were we willing to give up for safety. I really don't believe this question was answered adequately by anyone there. I'm guilty of not raising my hand.
I'm willing not to go to the new Twins stadium that I'm already paying for. Why should I pay for a Twins stadium? Why should I have to pay for any sports stadium? I don't enjoy sports. The only times (twice since I moved here in 1972) I've actually attended a Twins game was for a "Stitch and Pitch" where a group of people get tickets through a local yarn shop like Three Kittens in St. Paul. We sat in the stands and mostly ignored the ball game and conversed with our fellow knitters (see my blog for July 22, 2007) and knitted on our various projects: socks, sweaters, shawls, etc.
And the other time I've gone to a Twins game (also twice) was with free tickets from Saturn. My dad always said, "For free take; for buy waste time." And my girl friend and I sat and knitted and chatted and ignored the game. (BTW, every game I've been to, all four, the Twins lost.)
Anyway, back to what I'd be willing to give up for safety. If I were assured that my tax dollars would actually go to fixing already existing bridges and roadways, I'd be willing to report my mileage each year when I purchase my license tabs and pay a tax on those miles. I drive 19 miles each way to and from work and also drive a few more to go to tai chi school (where I'm a student and instructor). I drive a lot of miles and if my cost would pay for the roads I use, so be it.
I'd also be willing to pay, if not per mile, per pound of car. David's SUV would pay for more road than my little 1996 Saturn. His Rav4 is very nice and has proven very useful in the work he does and in his personal life. But I have to think it wears on the roadways more than my little Saturn.
I'd also be willing to pay a toll to use our roadways. Rybak and company used a phrase something like "distance pricing." That's a euphemism if I ever heard one. It's a freeking TOLL, Mayor Rybak!
I grew up in the Chicago area. There are toll roads there. As far as I know, these roads are not paid for by tax dollars but by the people who use them. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong, please.) You drive on it. You pay for the privilege. Simple solution.
One question asked was "are you afraid to drive over bridges now?" Yes, some of them. Terri Gruca has an article on wcco.com about 8 bridges in Minnesota with bad safety ratings as bad or worse than the 35W bridge that has killed 13 and injured over 100 people. After reading this one article, I'm no longer willing to drive on the Lafayette Bridge. I'm sort of willing to drive across the bridge on Hwy. 61 in Hastings and the Stillwater bridge, but only on a motorcycle. (Granted, if either bridge came down with me on it, it would be because of the cars/trucks. David's motorcycle does not guarantee we'd be safe. Just a teeny bit safer.)
The question really is this:
Would the money actually be spent in a way that would make us safer? I fear the money would be taken in and then spent foolishly.
Time will tell. . . time will tell.