The August 1 collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis has briefly reminded municipalities across the continent that they, too, have crumbling infrastructure. Local officials have reacted to this tragic current event by reassuring their respective constituencies that they will do whatever they can to make sure their bridges are safe. But if that bridge in Minneapolis hadn't collapsed, would America's formerly-unconsidered bridges be getting all of this attention?
I'd guess they probably wouldn't.
From the sampling of subsequent news headlines listed below, it's interesting to see the many instances of government snapping into quick action to assess bridges and assuage the safety concerns of residents. Federal highway officials ordered states to immediately inspect the 700 other U.S. bridges that share a similar design with the collapsed Minneapolis bridge. Governors in many states ordered immediate inspections of their state's bridges. With more than half a million bridges in the U.S., bridge inspectors are sure to be busy in the coming weeks...
Reading news stories about planning is crucially important to the worth of planners, developers, public officials, policy makers, and anyone else who cares about the way communities form and evolve. By knowing what's going on in other places, those concerned with cities and their development will be better informed to analyze and approach the planning issues facing their own communities.
But it can be assured that some would argue that the relative importance of most planning news is insignificant, as the practice of planning is primarily place-based; specific plans address specific issues in specific places. This might lead some to believe that an issue or problem being faced in a city 500 miles away really doesn't have a lot to do with what's going on at home.