We used to be great

The collapsed section of the Bay Bridge after the Loma Prieta quake

Remember the big quake?  It was a long time ago, 23 years this week.  I was lying on the floor of our kitchen, installing a dishwasher, when all hell broke loose.  I ran out the front door, my mother ran out the back door, fortunately we had no significant damage.

The Bay Bridge wasn’t so lucky, as the above photo shows.

The Bridge was built in the 1930’s.  Construction started on July 9, 1933 and the whole thing was opened to traffic on November 12, 1936.  It took three years, four months and 3 days to construct the Mobile Welding work was the most difficult one, in the days when there were rooms full of men (no women engineers in the 30’s) using adding machines and slide rules to do the engineering work, no cell phones, no computers, no fax machines, no jet travel, no internet.

After the quake, it became clear that the eastern span had to be replaced lest there be another, greater tragedy when the next quake inevitably hit.  In theory, the new section of the bridge will open on Labor Day weekend of next year.

That will make just under 24 years to replace one half of a bridge that was originally built in 3 years.  Why?  Surely things should take less time now, not more. What have we done to ourselves, what have we allowed the politicians and bureaucrats to do, that has octupled the time needed to build a bridge?

Note that this isn’t a complaint about any particular party–in twenty three years we have had both Democrats and Republicans as Governor and President.  The bureaucracy just rumbles along, regardless of who is nominally in charge.

When people complain about the decline of our nation, they look too often at social trends and exogenous factors, and too little at the creeping entanglement of red tape, bureaucratic nonsense and politically correct BS.

Would it take 24 years to build this bridge in China?


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