Cross that bridge when you come it, if it's still there

Only 6 days after the San Francisco Chronicle first reported on it and 5 days after The Blotter first noted it, the Los Angeles Times today informs its readers about the state of California's bridges. The state: hundreds of bridges are considered at risk of collapsing during a major earthquake because a state retrofitting program to strengthen the bridges was halted in 2002 due to lack of funds. What makes the failure to fund the program all the more appalling is that the state would only have to put up 11.47% of the money for the program, the rest would come in federal matching funds. But there's no money in the Schwarzenegger administration's budget for retrofitting– none, zero dollars– nor is funding for the program included in the governor's massive bond proposal for infrastructure repair. (It is included in Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) version of the bond proposal, though, at the moment, neither version seems to be going anywhere.)

While the Times article is largely devoted to stating the obvious–

Fred Turner, staff structural engineer for the California Seismic Safety Commission, said the risks to the economy as well as human life are too great to put off such work any longer.

"These are essential facilities that our economy rests on," he said. "It's really unfortunate that we haven't found ways to retrofit them."

– it does contain some useful information. Namely, the names of local bridges considered at risk. In Orange County, they are:

• MacArthur Boulevard at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana

• Park Avenue at Grand Canal in Newport Beach

• Jamboree Road at San Diego Creek in Newport Beach

• McFadden Avenue at the Santa Ana River in Santa Ana

• Fairview Street at the Santa Ana River in Santa Ana

I suppose it's appropriate the Times chose to report this story today. It was on March 12, 1928, that ten Southern California bridges were wiped out in the worst infrastructure-related disaster in the state's history: the collapse of the St. Francis Dam in San Francisquito Canyon. The flood waters from the dam also destroyed or damaged almost 1,300 homes and killed at least 470 people (an exact body count is impossible, since so many were washed out to sea), leaving behind a path of destruction 54 miles long. The 185 ft. high dam had been constructed to hold water from the Los Angeles-Owen Valley Aqueduct– unfortunately, it had been constructed on top of an ancient landslide, one which gave no signs activity, seismic or otherwise, before reactivating late on the night March 12. Although the collapse of the dam ended the career of the legendary chief of LA's Department of Water and Power, William Mulholland, scholars say that no one is really to blame for the dam's collapse, since at the time, even the best experts would not have been able to understand the danger posed by dam's site, and therefore no one could have foreseen the ancient landslide reactivating. In a complete unrelated story, the Register reports today on maintenance at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. The San Onofre plant, you may recall, is built on top of the Cristianitos fault, which experts assure us will never reactivate.


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