Tragedy in Minneapolis
By Mohsen Zahran
The recent collapse of a bridge in Minneapolis was a tragedy by all accounts. Dozens died when cars fell in the Mississippi River and were carried away by the current. This was the second incident of this kind in a year and may not be the last. The worst part is that this disaster could have been avoided. According to US federal agencies, up to 150,000 bridges, or 25 per cent of the nation's total, are unsafe for passage. This is odd coming from a country with a national income of $13 trillion, equalling the entire national income of all EU countries. It is odd coming from a country that spends $12 billion a month on its war in Iraq. But that's not our problem. Ours is worse.
Many of our bridges are older than the one that collapsed in Minneapolis. Many are over a century old, and you can say the same about our railroads, our ferries, etc. Decades have gone by without serious maintenance and now many of our amenities are unsafe. Remember the train accident in Qalyub a year ago? After the accident, officials admitted that the railway network needed LE10 billion to be fixed. They could have been talking about our network of bridges. They could have been talking about our public transport fleets. We should learn from the past. And we should learn from Minneapolis. Right now we keep spending money on new bridges, tunnels and roads for Greater Cairo. But is this what we should be doing? Wouldn't it be cheaper and better to build a new capital from scratch? Let's consider our options. And let's try and do something before things get worse.
This week's Soapbox speaker is a professor of engineering at Alexandria University.