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As others see it: Bridge collapse is wake-up call

The bridge collapse (May 23) in Washington state serves as a stark reminder that our nation's aging transportation infrastructure is approaching a critical point.

... Though much less serious, the situation is eerily reminiscent of the 2007 Interstate 35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis, which killed 13 people and injured more than 140 when it buckled and collapsed during rush hour.

But, the problem exists here as well.

A 2011 report released by a group called Transportation for America listed more than 1,000 bridges across the state that are rated "structurally deficient." That translates to nearly 1 in every 10 bridges in Minnesota, and means that about 2 million people cross structurally deficient bridges statewide every day. That's a lot of opportunities for tragedy.

Here in Steele County -- home to 128 bridges -- the report cited 7 bridges as structurally deficient.

... Of course, it's not just bridges that are in need of repair. Roads and highways can also be structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The stretch of Highway 14 between Owatonna and Dodge Center comes to mind.

We hope that the near tragedy in Washington serves as a wake-up call to legislators across the nation and spurs them to address an ever-worsening problem that is putting lives in jeopardy on a daily basis. Yes, maintaining our transportation infrastructure will take funding -- funding that is increasingly hard to come by in today's economic climate. But, when public safety is at risk, investing in infrastructure seems to be a much more reasonable use of taxpayer dollars than some of the boondoggles that our state leaders have opted to fund.