| Schutze |

The Bridge to the Truth

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Read The Dallas Morning News' coverage of the Minnesota bridge collapse closely for the story you will not see: What is the truth behind the claim of the Trinity toll road/signature bridge boosters that all of the major freeway bridges in downtown Dallas are slated for replacement, anyway?

I’m so sick of this story I wouldn’t bring it up again if it were not for the Minnesota story and all of the resulting national spate of bad-bridge stories. I had to hammer and hammer on the people at the Texas Department of Transportation to get them to tell me the truth, but finally they admitted that none of the Trinity bridges in question is on the list of bridges slated for replacement.

Look, this is way political, so TxDOT gets way semantic about it. Like, “It depends on what you mean by 'replacement.' It depends on what you mean by 'placement.' It depends on what you mean by 're.'”

They have gone to the Texas Attorney General to get permission to refuse to give me the actual lists, the underlying criteria and the inspection results. I think their argument was that I could be a bridge salesman just trying to gin up business. Anyway, it worked.

All I could get out of them is that the bridges downtown that the Trinity boosters want to replace with fancy pretty new bridges are not slated for replacement, as the boosters keep lying.

What is that all about? I can tell you. There is, indeed, a real reason for replacing those bridges. It’s called the toll road. In order to stick a toll road down there in the middle of the flood plain, they will have to dig the river down way deeper to keep it from flooding. Otherwise the toll road will be a fat man in the bathtub. It will displace too much water, causing it to spill over the levees.

But a deeper river channel would hit those bridge piers down there like an artillery battery. It’s called “scouring.” That much water moving that fast would dig those piers out like a big wave hitting a sand castle on the beach.

They have to get new bridges in there that will stand on fewer piers -- hence the Calatrava suspension bridges. And that cost -- hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe half a billion -- should therefore be added to the cost of the toll road. Nobody wants to admit that to the voters.

So we get this big fat stupid lie that the bridges have to be replaced anyway, and we might as well use this opportunity to turn them into bridge “art.”

Bridge “art?” Is that like sanitary sewer art?

Hey, somebody go up to Minneapolis-St. Paul tomorrow and give a speech: “Why we think you should spend your little Yankee dollars turning your bridges into art instead of making them safe.” Be sure to wear a helmet.

Somebody has got to find a way to force TxDOT to pony up a prioritized list of bridges in this area that need replacement. Then we need to look at the available money. Then we need to think about spending that money on art bridges instead of safe bridges.

In the meantime, maybe we will be able to force the toll road backers to admit that their stupid idea -- putting a small city of concrete right down in the flood plain -- is driving the need for new bridges over the flood plain.

You will not see that story or that discussion in The Dallas Morning News. That is a flat promise, a dare, a challenge and a screw-you directly from me to The News.

Cain’t do it, can you people? And you still really think you’re journalists?

Keep this in mind. We obviously do have bridges at the top of the list that need attention or replacement. Spending money on signature bridges instead takes money away from the real priorities. This is why bridges like that one in St. Paul don’t get replaced.

I went to a baseball game not too long in a big stadium -- I think it's called the Hubert Humphrey Apologist for the Viet Nam War Memorial Stadium -- right by that bridge up there. What if the good people of Minneapolis-St. Paul had spent their money instead on fixing the bridge?

It’s always the same question: Fix my roof or buy a jet-ski? Tough, tough question. Safe bridges? Art bridges? --Jim Schutze

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