Living in the northwest suburbs of Minneapolis, I’ve occasionally taken the 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in to Minneapolis. I read this comment on buzz.mn that holds true for me also (except for the regular use):
When I heard the 35W bridge collapsed, I couldn’t immediately place it, though I use it regularly. It’s not a landmark by any means. It hardly seems to be a “bridge” at all. When you’re on it, you can’t see the water and you have no sense of where the bridge ends or where it begins. It’s just a stretch on the Interstate with a good skyline view. In order to mentally place the bridge, I could not call the structure to mind–rather I had to think about where 35W crosses the Mississippi. In a way, it makes it all the more surreal. This doesn’t seem like the collapse of a gossamer structure suspended over a gorge. Rather it strikes me as the ground simply giving way beneath unsuspecting motorists.
Especially when I wasn’t very familiar with that stretch. I was always paying closer attention to road signs and lane changes.
When I first saw the news on the StarTribune web site last night at about 6:30pm, I couldn’t picture a whole bridge collapsing. One that I know about and use. I imagined it had to be one section. I couldn’t conceive of a disruption much bigger than the pavement explosions you sometimes hear about in very hot weather. But of course it was and is awful. Things turn in an instant.
Watching the news coverage last night, I thought about how fragile it all can be, this civilization of ours. Setting aside the direct human toll at the point of catastrophe–since I don’t have good, true words for that–I thought about the disruption this will cause to traffic for months and years. I thought about if a few more major points of infrastructure failed around the same time. I think we’re on the verge of an amazing technological revolution, maybe even a singularity, but events like this make you wonder if it could all come unraveled first. Or maybe if we’re even that close to breaking through.
I’m very curious about the cause. Bridges aren’t supposed to just fall down.
I tend to be liberal in my politics, but thought it was distasteful and inappropriate in another buzz.mn post where some commenter immediately blamed the current governor, Tim Pawlenty. We don’t know what caused this. It might be related to the ongoing neglect of our infrastructure, but to say it’s all on Pawlenty is ridiculous. (And just gives ammo to the righties.) :-) Some politicians are more interested in tax cuts and others in spending the money on ineffective social programs. Either way, Republican and Democrat alike, these guys aren’t making the tough choices and are in no way leading us. They may be our “leaders,” but that’s just a sad, pathetic statement on the state of the union.
And aside from all that, it really is way too soon to say. This could be the result of incompetence by any number of bureaucrats or engineers or contractors, or extraordinary and unforeseeable circumstances, or evil spirits, or something.
(Still, specifically, it does make me angry when Pawlenty refuses tax increases to pay for transportation projects but is fine signing on for the new Twins ballpark to be funded by an increase in the metro sales tax. Something that by law should have been decided by referendum, but was conveniently sidestepped. Of course not that that has anything to do with this. And not that I’m bitter or anything because I’m paying for the stadium I didn’t want with 0.05% of each purchase I make.)
(Update: After posting this entry, I found a good article from Michael O’Hare over at the Reality-Based Community, discussing the bridge structure and the nature of politics in bridge maintenance and public works in general.)
Anyway, I wasn’t going to write about this. I don’t have anything really to add to the discussion, and I know I shouldn’t get in to politics here. But I thought it was interesting that the news affected this web site, so I fired up my keyboard and started blabbing. Now, finally, the anticlimactic reason for this entry: I noticed my photo post from last year for the Minneapolis Stone Arch Bridge is getting all kinds of traffic from Google (mostly image search):
That is the pageview graph for the article. Typically it gets along with a dozen or so pageviews per day from people searching for stone arch bridges, but it has over 300 views today. (Maybe I’ll update later with final numbers for today and tomorrow. Maybe not.)
And here are the top search keywords with page views for each:
- minneapolis bridge pictures (12)
- minneapolis bridge (7)
- minneapolis bridge photos (5)
- minneapolis bridge out (3)
- minneapolis bridge pics (2)
- picture minneapolis bridge (2)
- picture of minneapolis bridges (2)
- picture on bridge in minneapolis (2)
- before photo of minneapolis bridge (1)
- before pictures of the bridge in minneapolis (1)
Just a small glimpse in to the aftermath of an unfolding story in the Internet age. There’s this roiling sea of information out there, with lots of boats paddling around on the surface, dropping lines in the water. And of course most of these people were likely disappointed in this result for their search, even though there are some nice pictures of Minneapolis and the stone arch bridge. Take a look if you want to see something brighter and lighter than more views of twisted metal and caved-in concrete.
(By the way, did you know that Mississippi is an easy word to spell? Or at least it’s not that difficult. After the “M,” there are an even number of each of the remaining letters, and except for the i’s, they’re paired up. The i’s are never paired and act as delimiters. So it’s easy to start with an Mis, and then you know there has to be another s to make the pair, and look now it’s time for another i, and then another pair of s‘s, another delimiter i, and then your pair of p‘s. Finished off by an i to make an even number of those. Four I‘s, four S‘s, and two P‘s. And of course the M. Simple.)