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Will We Cross That Bridge When We Come to It? Part 2

In any society, a bridge is perhaps the most visible symbol of trust. And this kind of trust seldom comes into question. When most of us see a bridge, we assume it can handle the cars, trains, and gale-force winds bearing down on it.

Lately, though, people in my neck of the woods realize that they can’t take bridge safety for granted at all. In September, inspectors found a significant crack on the San Francisco Bay Bridge. (They wouldn’t have done an inspection except for a rare circumstance, so this discovery shook our confidence considerably.) Crews labored to fix the problem, only to have the repair job fail weeks later, sending 5,000 pounds of steel crashing down onto passing cars. Workers have now repaired the repair job, but they say it’s only a temporary solution and that we’ll need another repair in coming months.

On top of that, they’ve recently reconfigured the bridge, introducing a treacherous S-curve. I was nearly in an accident when the car ahead of me lost control there, careering from one side of the bridge to the other at a 90-degree angle to the rest of us. After that, a Safeway truck overturned at the S-curve, tying up traffic for hours. And just days ago, a truck carrying Asian pears plunged off the S-curve to an island below, killing the driver.

The traffic jams clear up eventually, but distrust lingers long after that. Many of us are left wondering whether we can believe the officials who deem our bridges safe. The bridge feels about as creaky as the old Japanese one in the photo.

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