Safe and sound.
That sounds nice doesn’t it’ After all, what could be more comforting’
If you’re traveling through Missouri, you might see those words on some of the bridges you cross.
It’s a nice, square sign, with just three words and a nice graphic drawing of a bridge, all in a pleasant blue color on a white background.
Each of the signs, below the drawing of the bridge, says those comforting words: “Safe and Sound.”
The word “safe” is a little bolder than “sound,” as if to emphasize that this is a safe place.
As you cross the bridge, you’re probably thinking, hey, this is Missouri. I’m driving this big heavy truck, and they have a lot of bridges that need work. And this particular bridge I’m crossing doesn’t look too good.
But don’t worry. There’s that sign. “Safe and Sound.” Ahhh. It must mean that my bridge here, even though it looks kind of ratty, is a safe and sound bridge.
Well, guess what, bubba’ That nice little sign means the exact opposite. In fact, if you see a sign on a bridge in Missouri that says “Safe and Sound,” watch out.
It means that bridge is one of the 802 lowest rated bridges in the state. Some of them actually have holes in them.
The state DOT even has pictures of some on its Web site. Check it out: Modot.mo.gov/safeandsound.
Just under their online map, they have a rotating group of photos showing crumbing concrete, holes in pavement and rusted metal.
That’s what this sign means. This sign means that this bridge is so bad, it’s either one of 248 that are being bid out in small groups, or one of 554 bridges that are part of a massive, single bid.
All are so bad, the state wants them replaced within 5 years.
When last I looked at their Web site, only 25 of the bridges were complete; 34 are under construction, and 743 are still waiting to be worked on.
Safe and sound my Aunt Fanny.
That cute little sign should be replaced instead – with a warning label. How about something with a skull and crossbones that says “Danger Will Robinson,” or maybe “Warning: This bridge is one of our worst.” Or how about all capital letters screaming, “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR GEAR-JAMMIN’ MIND’ DO NOT CROSS THIS RICKETY OLD BRIDGE WITH AN 80,000 POUND TRUCK. IT HAS HOLES IN IT.”
I only say this because as I recently traveled the state’s highways and byways, I saw a massive amount of truck traffic crossing these very bridges, most likely driven by folks wholly and completely unaware that their “safe and sound” bridge is anything but.
Let me tell you about one of the roads I saw this on. It was a two-lane highway in a rural area of the Ozarks. I sat in a café on a street corner, eating my roast beef sandwich, and in five minutes counted over a dozen and a half fully loaded semis pass.
And based on the direction they came from, and the roads that lead to that point, each and every one of them, I guarantee you, passed over one of those bridges.
This is PR gone amuck. And I say that with all respect for PR folk. I know many who do excellent work for the public good, our own Norita Taylor among them. I even know some at MoDOT who are top-notch folks.
But why in the name of Route 66 would you put a sign that says “Safe and Sound” ONLY on your WORST bridges’ What kind of logic is that’ Can you say “counterintuitive,” boys and girls’ There – I knew you could.
I applaud MoDOT’s efforts to repair their bridges. I applaud the stepped-up, urgent schedule. I love the sense of priority, that highway money is going to real highway safety, that someone, anyone, is addressing the condition of our national infrastructure.
But how about a little common sense’ Please, so people know what they’re