This is it. Today is the Presidential Elections and it is the time where we finally decide for ourselves who to vote for. The next president will have a lot on his plate as he has many issues to deal with, among them preservation of historic bridges and improving the infrastructure. The last segment of the series on the US Presidential Elections deals with an interview with Patrick Sparks, who is engineer at KT Engineering Consultants, based in Texas. The company specializes in the restoration of historic buildings and bridges. Mr. Sparks has been active on the historic bridge scene for many years, which includes being member of the advisory board at Historic Bridge Foundation in Austin, Texas. The state has had a great track record regarding historic bridge preservation, which can be seen with the recent restoration of the Piano Bridge in Fayette County. I had an opportunity to ask him a few questions about this topic, in hopes that he can shed some light from a civil engineer’s point of view. Here are his thoughts:
How would you rate the state of the infrastructure in the last four years in your homestate, in your opinion? (General as well as with regards to bridges and historic bridges)
The infrastructure here is generally good, but it is easy to see that we are not keeping up with bridge rehabilitation. Of course, the state DOT stopped most funding a few years ago, due both to the end of the highway bill cycle and also due to some mismanagement.
How has the I-35W Bridge disaster in Minneapolis influenced the way bridges are designed and maintained?
I’m not clear about the affect of I-35 bridge. It happened at a time when funding was dropping off nationally.
And with regards to historic bridge preservation?
Bridge preservation continues to be a difficult thing. Rehab vs replace… replace is still usually chosen even when the costs are substantially higher. We still see the same obstacles. However, withe AASHTO focus now on general bridge preservation, there may be a shift in perspective.
How do you think the US is handling the policies involving infrastructure and historic bridges?
Clearly there is not enough infrastructure funding, and almost no funding for structural maintenance of bridges. And the decision of rehab vs replace is always biased in favor of replace. These are policy issues.
Only 6% of the Stimulus Bill was for infrastructure, so I have to give the current administration the Congress at the time low marks. Given the massive amounts of spending for non-infrastructure things, we will have to see what happens. Since the Democrats had full control of Congress, and did not pass an infrastructure bill, I’m not sure they would pass one now, unless they lose the Presidency and have to rebuild their credibility. In short, they missed the opportunity.
In your opinion, which of the two candidates (Romney or Obama) is better fit to handle the problems mentioned above? Why?
In summary, my hope is that Romney would do a better job with infrastructure, as I think he sees it as a true investment.
Thank you for your time and help.