Presidential Elections and Historic Bridge Preservation: An Interview with Patrick Sparks

Photo taken in August 2010

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.


One thought on “Presidential Elections and Historic Bridge Preservation: An Interview with Patrick Sparks

  1. The voice of Plutocracy wrapped up in Republican rags. The I-35 collapse was under Republican control of Washington, so the effect is not clear. But the Democrats…..blah, blah, blah. No problem with tax cuts for millionaires, subsidies for oil companies……. Between 2008 and 2011, 26 major American corporations paid no net federal income taxes despite bringing in billions in profits, according to a new report from the nonprofit research group Citizens for Tax Justice. CTJ calculates that if the companies had paid the full 35 percent corporate tax rate, they would have put more than $78 billion into government coffers. So the companies that profit massively by utilizing our infrastructure pay almost nothing to maintain it, and get a 78 billion dollar tax “refund”. How much infrastructure repair could 78 billion cover? Some Texas examples: Apache: Houston-based oil and gas company -Profits: $6 billion w/Effective tax rate: -0.3% . El Paso: Houston-based energy company that operates the country’s largest natural gas pipeline Profits: $4.6 billion w/Effective tax rate: -0.9%. CenterPoint Energy: Electric and gas utility company based in Houston
    Profits: $3.1 billion w/Effective tax rate: -11.3% The reality for most of us Texans is the latest U.S. Census data which found that 17.9 percent of Texans — or 4.4 million people — live below the poverty line. That’s 2.6 percent higher than the national average and ranks Texas 40th in the nation. If you exclude homes and automobiles from the calculation, a full 50 percent of Texans have no assets they could use to survive if they suddenly lost their income. The Plutocrats want more, and more..
    Lets qualify his opinion that Texas infrastructure is generally good.
    -22% of Texas’ bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
    -There are 888 high hazard dams in Texas. A high hazard dam is defined as a dam whose failure would cause a loss of life and significant property damage.
    -103 of Texas’ 7,478 dams are in need of rehabilitation to meet applicable state dam safety standards.
    -84% of high hazard dams in Texas have no emergency action plan (EAP). An EAP is a predetermined plan of action to be taken including roles, responsibilities and procedures for surveillance, notification and evacuation to reduce the potential for loss of life and property damage in an area affected by a failure or mis-operation of a dam.
    -Texas’ drinking water infrastructure needs an investment of $28.17 billion over the next 20 years.
    -Texas ranked 2nd in the quantity of hazardous waste produced and 4th in the total number of hazardous waste producers.
    -Texas reported an unmet need of $31.2 million for its state public outdoor recreation facilities and parkland acquisition.
    -32% of Texas’ major roads are in poor or mediocre condition.
    -47% of Texas’ major urban highways are congested.
    -Texas has $5.64 billion in waste-water infrastructure needs.
    Sources- *Survey of the state’s ASCE members conducted in September 2008
    Our infrastructure has been abandoned , along with the poor and the sick, to make bigger piles of money for corporate greed. Mr Sparks believes Romney’s promise to cut more taxes on the super rich while increasing military spending translates into infrastructure spending. Another worshiper at the temple of greed and selfishness.

    Ezek. 16:49ff. “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me.
    Ezek. 22:29,31. “The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice… Thus I have poured out My indignation on them


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