Nipigon Bridge is falling down. So is government credibility.
A superficially impressive twinning of a single bridge built in 1937, the most expensive bridge ever built in Ontario and the only road link between Eastern and Western Canada except via the United States, it opened on Nov. 29, 2015, and buckled on Jan. 10.
It has now been partly reopened by an engineering kluge of uncertain reliability. But how long full repairs will take, or how extensive a renovation is required, is anybody’s guess.
Nobody is yet sure what happened, whether the problem was with the design, the construction, the site or a freak climatic act of God. But the location, just north of Thunder Bay, is not exactly known for its mellow winters.
Nor is mankind unfamiliar with the engineering challenges of cold weather, from Scandinavia to Russia to that other big one that includes the North Pole with the rhythmic three-syllable name.
Why is government credibility involved? Because infrastructure is one of the most basic public responsibilities. Even those highly skeptical of the modern government agenda agree that the state must provide defence, criminal law and key infrastructure, because it is generally impossible to have competing transport networks due to the two-dimensional nature of the Earth’s surface.
But if government has difficulty with those basic tasks, it might not be a good time to take on ambitious new ones, and endless debt to fund its soaring ambitions.
The infrastructure projects are becoming ever-more grandiose. Not content with filling potholes, governments promise to transform our lives with mass transit, urban infill, high-speed broadband, whatever is the latest social, as well as physical, engineering trend.
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