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Michael Miller

Viewpoint

By Michael Miller
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Infrastructure

1. It was barely a blip down here, but the recent sudden closing of the Champlain Bridge was a massive jolt to people in a large region of upstate New York and a warning signal to all of us. The Department of Transportation immediately closed the bridge when inspectors found critical deterioration on two supporting concrete piers. Opened in 1929, the 2,184 foot-long steel truss bridge crosses Lake Champlain and typically carries some 3,400 vehicles a day between New York and Vermont. Commuters, local businesses and dairy farms (some of which have operations on both sides of the lake) have experienced major league dislocation. The detour route around the south end of the lake adds about 100 miles to each trip. Ferry companies are scrambling to increase service and the two states, which co-own the bridge, are scrambling to do repairs. Businesses in both states are likely to go under…

2. The latest reports are unclear about whether federal aid will be available to complete the bridge repairs…

3. Last week, the Bay Bridge that connects San Francisco to Oakland was closed for emergency repairs. Five days later, as this is being written, the bridge is still closed…

4. If you think the situation with the bridges is scary, wait until I tell you a real Halloween story about Long Island’s sewage and water treatment systems. Nassau Coliseum is just a poster child for what challenges we’re facing just in keeping this whole thing together. And if the sea levels do go up an inch or two or three, we can tell stories about water desalination plants and maybe even dikes…

5. In his 1953 “Chance for Peace” speech to newspaper editors, President Eisenhower suggested that the cost of one modern heavy bomber diverted money that could be spent to pave 50 miles of highway, among other desirable choices…

6. We’re going to have to come to terms with a new world in which American resources are not able to do everything we used to do, want to do or hope we can do. We must have some kind of honest discussion about what has to happen to keep the bridges up and our standard of living consistent with that of the world’s leading countries…

7. About six out of every ten dollars in the part of the federal budget that is “discretionary” (not fixed or mandatory spending) goes for military purposes…

 8. We are still paying the costs on the first 20 of our B-2 bombers, produced in 1997 at $2.2 billion each…

9. When the roads crumbled, so did Rome…

10. I can’t figure out what’s happening in the State Capitol these days. But I can tell you that as I type these words, the traffic on Interstate-787 directly opposite the Capitol is moving at an average of 59 miles per hour. I checked traffic conditions on the state’s 511 traffic information system. You can access the information on your phone (dial 511) or on the web (511ny.org). The online version can generate maps that show construction zones, weather conditions and a lot more. Better travel through better trip planning. Ten years ago, there were more than 300 different traffic information numbers in the U.S., but now active 511 systems are clearing the confusion in 45 U.S. states or metropolitan areas. Here’s a useful government service that couldn’t have been envisioned 15 years ago, when most people still didn’t own cell phones or know what the Internet was…

11. I know that No. 10 doesn’t really fit with the rest, but I’m desperate to find a silver lining these days. Aren’t you?

Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. He lives in New Hyde Park.

Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: millercolumn@optimum.net