In The Name of Progress
The reason our winding country dirt roads with historic bridges are being destroyed.
If a historic bridge is not destroyed because it has weakened and is in danger of falling into the river the other most common reason given for the destruction is that the bridge does not meet current standards. What does this mean? It means the weight the bridge can support is too low. It means the road has to curve a bit to get to the bridge. It means the bridge is a one lane bridge. I am not going to argue these statements in this article; a separate article is dedicated to those issues. I am going to discuss in a more abstract manner, what this all results in, and why it is happening.
Beauty is falling in the name of progress. Even the Macomb County Road Commission admits it. In fact, they are dedicated to it. The government has to spend money in an efficient manner to keep tax payers happy. However, it becomes more advanced than that. With our different levels of government, money can be given from a higher level of government to a lower level of government for an intended purpose. An example of this is Critical Bridge Funding, also known as Local Bridge Funding (LBF) which provides state aid to county road commissions to replace worn out bridges. LBF will pay for 95% of the costs of bridge reconstruction. It will pay for the reconstruction of a modern bridge with things like two or more lanes and excessive weight limits. It will not pay for the repair or restoration of an existing bridge. It does not provide any incentive for preserving historic bridges of any kind. Although the raw costs of restoring a historic bridge are less than reconstruction, the amount of money that the county has to put down is much less for a new bridge. County road commissioners are faces with a sad decision.
I believe that we all, whether we like winding country roads and historic bridges or not, are affected by this streamlining and standardizing of our transportation system. Our straight, wide, paved roads encourage us to to leave for our destination late, and drive faster, often over the posted speed limit. The lack of scenery on a road takes away an opportunity to take our minds off of the things that frustrate us in life. We are deprived of a way to enjoy the beauty of this world and we find ourselves griping to ourselves about whatever is bothering us. I must say that there seems to be a lot bothering people these days too. Being a person who actually drives at the speed limit or a little below and also being a person who rides a bike 12+ miles on the road daily I certainly get a feel for how short tempers are these days. It seems that anything that requires them to use brakes is considered the scum of the earth. I get some of the most rude behavior both on the bike and in the car, even if I have only held up someone a mere few seconds!
The city, and it's expressways are a place where speed and lack of scenery has it's place, and people can go as fast as they want, (as long as no cops are around). However, I feel that speed and a lack of scenery on our country roads has no place. This country was founded on the idea of equality yet we have failed again and again to fulfill that obligation. It seems that those who enjoy the country and its winding roads for what they are do not have the right to enjoy them. Instead, our country roads are paved and city water is also brought out and all the people in the city move out into the country. Why not work on improving the quality of our cities and encourage those who live in the city to stay there and leave our country and its roads as they are and allow those who live in the country and enjoy it to continue to do so?
Another consequence is the modernizing the country roads causes a volatile mixing of lifestyles. When we pave our country roads we encourage people in the city to move out into the once-country. Of course when they move out and build their houses on small plots of land or in subdivisions it really isn't the country anymore, but they think it is. They move out to the country and immediately complain about what the country is. They don't like the smelly cows, they are concerned about what is being sprayed on the fields, and they do not like getting the mud and dirt from gravel roads on their cars.