August 2, 2007

Bush: Federal Response Will Be "Robust"

President Bush made an obviously impromptu appearance just now to make a statement about the bridge collapse. He promised a "robust" federal response, not just in the recovery and investigation, but also in rebuilding the bridge. He didn't spend much time talking about details, other than to say that the Secretary of Transportation has flown to Minneapolis to ensure the best possible coordination with state officials already on the ground.

This shouldn't require a huge effort in those regards. This hardly compares to Hurricane Katrina, after all. It's a localized and comparatively small tragedy. It won't require FEMA, but it will require the resources of the NTSB for the investigation, and that has to be coordinated now.

Bush's statement did emphasize one point that has understandably been missed while we focus on rescue and recovery, although my clear-thinking radio partner Mitch Berg has already blogged about it. This section of the 35W freeway is very significant to the businesses in Minneapolis, and the Mississippi River has almost as much economic significance. We need to be careful to build the replacement bridge properly, but it needs to get rebuilt quickly. Some estimates put the replacement out to 3-5 years, which would create a harsh impact on jobs and small businesses located in the city.

Mayor Rybak is making a statement too, and he says, "Thank God this wasn't worse." Minnesotans are starting to finally grasp how bad this could have been -- and how bad it might have been, had Minnesotans not kept themselves from panicking in those first few minutes.

UPDATE: DoT Secretary Mary Peters is making a statement now. She praised the actions of the first responders and good samaritans, and pledged her efforts to support and coordinate the efforts to recover from the catastrophe. Peters also said that she has brought out highway-construction experts already to review what happened, and emphasized the need to replace the bridge quickly. She authorized the release of $5 million in emergency funds to Minnesota to address the traffic issues.


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Comments (31)

Posted by Charles | August 2, 2007 10:10 AM

I think that last sentence needs a "not" in it.

Posted by exhelodrvr | August 2, 2007 10:21 AM

Curious - how fast and deep is the river there, and is there much commercial boat traffic (i.e. barges) that will be blocked?

Posted by Brendan | August 2, 2007 10:33 AM

I went to school there '91 to '95

There is barge traffic that goes on upstream from that bridge. I used to watch it from the pedestrian level of the campus bridge just down river. I don't know about how fast the river is, but it's not tremendously deep.

Posted by Cindy | August 2, 2007 10:38 AM

I hate to sound political, but maybe our officials should give up funding the choo-choos and concentrate on fixing our roads and bridges FIRST!


Posted by Philip | August 2, 2007 10:54 AM

I remember when, out in CA, an earthquake took out a section of the 10 freeway. Similar concerns about economic impact and time to rebuild. The solution? Get the government out of the way. They dealt with the best contractor money good buy. Offered them a significant profit for each day the finished early and a significant reduction for each day late. Result? Traffic flowing again in record time and a windfall profit for the risk taker. My point, other than the obvious similarities, is the power of risk and reward. Instead of the predictable "Blame Bush" scenarios that we will have to endure now for months and years we should examine the wrong minded Democrats that want to place additional tax burdens on these very types of risk takers.

Democrats: They just don't get it.

Posted by k2aggie07 | August 2, 2007 10:57 AM

This happened because Bush doesn't care about white people. Where the heck is FEMA?!?

Posted by Tope | August 2, 2007 11:07 AM

The new span should be funded with "Bridge to Nowhere" money.

Sorry, Teddy, but MSP needs a bridge more than Ketchikan.

Posted by filistro | August 2, 2007 11:18 AM

Currently, the Defense Department says it is spending about $4.5 billion a month on the conflict in Iraq, or about $100,000 per minute.

That's $6 million every HOUR.

$144 million a day. Month after month, year after year after year......

That would pay for a lot of bridges.

Posted by rbj | August 2, 2007 12:11 PM

I was wondering when the filistros would emerge. How about the billions spend keeping Saddam in check while he brutalized his own people and tried to pin the suffering on us.

3-5 years sounds optimistic. Investigating the collapse is going to take a while, then there's a need to design an appropriate bridge. I don't want anything slapped together.

Posted by B. English | August 2, 2007 12:22 PM

Does filistro realize how daft his/her attempted comparison of the war on terror to road infrastructure? Go ahead-- say it-- its Bush's fault!

Posted by MarkD | August 2, 2007 12:29 PM

The "Highway Trust Fund" has more than enough money. I mean, it all goes back to the states and gets spent on the highways, right?

We had a similar situation in New York State long ago. It seems Governor Cuomo was short changing the maintenance of bridges on the NY Thruway (toll road, btw) to pay for his social programs.

Less than a dozen people died, and he had more important uses for that money, so he thought it was OK. The voters sent him packing.

I'd suggest we need to send a lot of politicians packing. How about an amendment that the highway funds be spent on the highways? Nah, that will never happen. The pols will never give up the ability to collect bribes -I mean campaign contributions - in return for expenditure of public money.

Posted by filistro | August 2, 2007 12:41 PM

rbj.... the Defense Department estimated in 2002 that maintenance of the no-fly zones (which by that time had been greatly escalated) was costing US and British taxpayers approximately $1 bn per year.

The Iraq war is now costing in excess of $54 bn per year.

Posted by filistro | August 2, 2007 1:29 PM

B. English, I think a discussion of the cost of repairing dangerously faulty infrastructure can help people understand the enormous cost of this war.

Most people can't even visualize how much money a billion dollars is... let alone a billion dollars a week.

When you think of it in terms of how many bridges those dollars would build.... then that can be a useful "metric" (as Rummy would say.)

Posted by k2aggie07 | August 2, 2007 1:35 PM

And if we weren't spending that money in Iraq, the bridge would still have fallen. And Chinese people would still eat rice.

Whats your point? The structural analysis of the bridge yielded no evidence to indicate this would happen, so no money would have been spent on it.

Get over it. The bridge collapsing has absolutely nothing to do with Iraq...and money spent on the war has absolutely nothing to do with spending on roads here in the states.

If the Democrats had their way the money being spent in Iraq would go to entitlements anyway, not roads.

Posted by filistro | August 2, 2007 1:38 PM

By the way, in answer to that question... (how many bridges would those dollars build?)...

The "Bridge of Lions" in St Augustine is now being rebuilt over a 5-year period at a cost of $76 million.

So... how many bridges are currently being squandered in Iraq?

About two a day.

Posted by Scott | August 2, 2007 2:31 PM

Here in the Bay Area, we had that truck explosion recently that took out a huge interchange leading to the Bay Bridge.

The governor ordered the state transportation department to bypass ALL the rules and award a contract. The contract was done in days. The contractor finished the job weeks ahead of schedule and got a five million dollar bonus.

This can be done. But you have to make sure the bureaucrats gets out of the way. And for heaven's sake, don't let the enviro nuts demand an environmental impact. That alone can hold things up for years.

Posted by mitchberg | August 2, 2007 2:31 PM

So... how many bridges are currently being squandered in Iraq?

Just think; if we'd have just let the Japanese have their way, we could have bridges over every intersection in this country.

Posted by trentk269 | August 2, 2007 2:35 PM

Any guesses as to how quickly Bush will be attacked for responding to a "white" state faster than a "black" one?

Posted by patrick neid | August 2, 2007 3:14 PM

the crew that rebuilt the overpass in oakland california also repaired the bridges from the LA earthquake. they are the bridge equivalent of "Red" Adair the famous oil well firefigthers. these guys get it done--strictly on fixed bids with a very large bonus for coming in under time. meanwhile the oakland bay bridge, done the old fashion way, is years behind and the budget has tripled!

Posted by fourpointer | August 2, 2007 3:24 PM

Just think how much lighter the weight of the traffic would have been if only everybody had been driving a Toyota Prius!! (/sarc)

MarkD, was that the bridge over the Scoharie Creek? Yeah, I used to drive the Thruway when I was in college. It was supposed to have been paid off (via the outrageous tolls) years ago. Yeah, right.

Posted by filistro | August 2, 2007 3:36 PM


C'mon, you have to be kinder to me, because I'm really quite old.

Seriously, I date back to the era of doughty old, rock-ribbed, eagle-eyed conservatives who believed first and foremost in good governance and fiscal restraint.

Oh, how I miss those crusty old warhorses! When confronted with a complaint about crumbling infrastructure and the futility of pouring half a trillion taxpayer dollars dollars into a nation-building exercise, they would never have responded with an airy admonition to "get over it."

In fact I really wish you could elucidate for me The Fiscal Policy Of The Modern Republican.

Because, God help me, I just can't seem to wrap my aging brain around what that policy might be nowadays.

Oh.. and Mitchberg... you're just being silly :-)

Posted by k2aggie07 | August 2, 2007 3:52 PM

Detente policy is much closer to the mark with regards to Iraq than any comparison to World War II.

And I would love to be able to gloat about the fiscal restraint of the modern Republican, but unfortunately Left and Right are no longer easily defined as Democrat and Republican. Democrats are on the left, yes...but the republican party has to many RINOs in it that the whole thing should be scrapped.

Reagan had no problems spending massive amounts of money to combat evil. I have no problems with Bush doing the same. Thats not to say that I'm in favor of increasing the size of the federal government -- or even leaving it alone.

But again, the get over it comment was with regards to the money situation in Iraq as it is 100% wholly irrelevant to this story.

Posted by crossdotcurve | August 2, 2007 4:11 PM

Yes, a single collapsed bridge should just about be something Bush could handle. Well, let's see how he does.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | August 2, 2007 4:21 PM

filistro asks:

"So... how many bridges are currently being squandered in Iraq?

About two a day. "

Sadly, there is a HUGE hole in your "argument" here.

The costs for Interstate highway maintenance come out of the Federal gas tax, which is totally separate from money earmarked to fund the war in Iraq.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | August 2, 2007 4:25 PM

filistro asks:

"So... how many bridges are currently being squandered in Iraq?

About two a day. "

Sadly, there is a HUGE hole in your "argument" here.

The funds for Interstate highway maintenance come out of the Federal gas tax (18 cents a gallon, as I recall), which are totally separate from money earmarked to fund the war in Iraq.

The State and local governments in Minnesota add an additional 22 cents per gallon in gasoline taxes to that amount.

Posted by Continuum | August 2, 2007 5:46 PM

* Rick Perlstein: “This year two Democratic Minnesotan legislatures passed a $4.18 billion transportation package. Minnesota’s Republican governor vetoed it because he had taken a no-new-taxes pledge, Grover Norquist-style. That’s just what conservative politicians do. The original bill would have put over $8 billion toward highways, city, and county roads, and transit over the next decade. The bill he let passed spent much less.”

Posted by Continuum | August 2, 2007 5:49 PM

About a week before the bridge collapse, Bush threatened to veto the congressional appropriations bill that funds the Department of Transportation. Bush said on July 23 that the bill was too expensive by $22 billion, that it had too many earmarks, and that a plan in the House version of the bill to move $3.5 billion from Defense appropriations to non-defense related spending would "risk diminishing America's war fighting capacity."

Democrats argued Thursday their bill included $631 million more for federal highway safety than Bush proposed, but Bush threatened to veto it.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | August 2, 2007 6:32 PM

Continuum said:

"Democrats argued Thursday their bill included $631 million more for federal highway safety than Bush proposed, but Bush threatened to veto it. "

Wow, it didn't take the DNC long to politicize THIS tragedy, did it? Which we accurately predicted some 22 hours ago...

Posted by Continuum | August 2, 2007 6:43 PM

Thanks Dole -- I love it when you quote me. It doubles the exposure of the original facts.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are saying "Now, is not the time to point fingers"

That way they can avoid their responsibilities and still say "Brownie, you're doin' a heck of a job".

Posted by Bitter Pill | August 3, 2007 6:28 AM

"Oh.. and Mitchberg... you're just being silly :-)"

Any you're just being stupid. But I state the obvious.

Posted by Dave | August 5, 2007 12:41 PM

There is no direct link between the trillions being spent in Iraq and the failure of the bridge. It is definitely true to say that the catastrophic mishandling of the war in Iraq has contributed to a massive trade deficit, stretched the military to breaking point and lowered the US's standing in the world. Most of the world thinks of us as the "bad guys" now. Let's admit President Bush's massive mistakes and shortcomings.

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