Day 3,106 – Infrastructure

Abernethy bridge retrofit and upgrade site and equipment.

Over a year ago, I noticed equipment and material being stockpiled at the Oregon City side of the Abernethy Bridge. I visit the intersection of 99E and i205 as little as possible, so I wasn’t interested in the impending construction project. It was only later, over a year later, I began to get a sense of the size of the project as more and more equipment and stuff began to pile up.

Here are some facts about the bridge and the current project. What continually astonishes me is the cost and the expected timeline for completion of the upgrade project. Sure, everything costs more today; no surprise there. Also, there are complexities in doing the work while thousands of cars and trucks traverse the bridge; modifying the plane whilst in the air is tricky. But I can’t help asking, haven’t there been any extraordinary improvements in construction techniques since building the bridge more than 50 years ago?

Years back, a guy I knew spent some time in Singapore. While there, it was decided the airport needed improved access. In a matter of months, new roads and bridges were constructed. His reporting reminded me of the construction of the interstate highway system, where stuff just seemed to get done.

The goal of projects today rather than completion seems to be maximum duration. As a user of infrastructure, I find this depressing.

Granted, building a bridge is more straightforward than modifying it while it remains in service. But again, are there no innovations in construction methodology to leverage? How about innovations in project management?