Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Bridge That Is Also A Place

At its highest point, it is higher than the top of the Transamerica Building in San Francisco.  Its concrete and steel arch effortlessly over the cavernous rock walls and water below.  It catches the warmth of the Southwestern sun beautifully.  It's a modern civil engineering marvel.

It is the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, spanning the Colorado River, connecting Arizona and Nevada, diverting traffic off of the top of the Hoover Dam which sits 1,500 feet to its north.

An elegant solution to a complicated problem.

It does not compete with its sister structure.  Rather it compliments her perfectly.

Honestly, the message seems unecessary

Separated by 80 years, these two paired beauties revive a primal nativist creed in me: America the doer; America the solver; America the ingenious; America the determined; America the skilled; America the brave.
Foreground completed during the Great Depression (1936).  Background, completed during the Great Recession (2010). Public works at their best.

This bridge is a testimonial to an America that has by no means disappeared, one where technical skill, engineering can-do, and a tremendously sensitive aesthetic understanding meld form to function with brawn, delicacy and awareness, creating something that will stand the test of generations.

To the detail, beautiful.
The tragedy of this bridge is that this public works project -- all paid for by the taxpayers of this land, where the states of Nevada and Arizona partnered with the federal government to achieve this major success -- will never be lauded for the victory that it is.  Unlike the Hoover Dam next to it (and temporally before it) or the NASA space program of the 1960s, this massive public effort will not similarly shine in the public's mind, largely due to the toxic (and politically-motivated) cynicism and endless demagoguery which says that government bureaucrats never get anything right.  Here is something that is not only governmental but also exceedingly right -- and far (far) better than the container loads of plastic crap we import daily from China to fulfill our consumerist gluttony courtesy of private sector benevolence and wisdom.

Now that my high horse has grown tired, I can also note that standing on the O'Callaghan-Tillman Bridge, 1000 feet above the gorge below, with two 18-wheelers rolling over it at 60 m.p.h. one feels not so much as a shimmer under foot.