A new CCC needed

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

As I was listening to a program about the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) on WOUB recently it occurred to me that something like this might be useful today. The CCC was a depression era program that ran from 1933 to 1942. It was open to unmarried young men between the ages of 18 and 25. They lived in camps and were paid $30 a month. About three million men were employed in the program.

They planted three billion trees. They constructed 800 camps and upgraded existing camps. They built buildings and roads and upgraded the firefighting capability.

Nothing like this had been done in our parks since then. Most of the trees you see in parks today probably were planted by the CCC.

However, what I have in mind is not another CCC. Instead I would like to suggest a Bridge Construction Corps(BCC). Why? Because we have a lot of unsafe bridges.

The Ohio Department of Transportation says there are 44,000 bridges in Ohio, and 5,700 are structurally deficient. That is about one out of every eight bridges. Not much has been done by the Department of Transportation because few of those bridges are on state roads. They are on county roads.

Apparently it has occurred to some people in Columbus that if a bridge collapses with a school bus on it and children are injured or killed, it will not matter whose responsibility it was to repair the bridge.

The state has now come up with $120 million for bridge repairs. It estimates that this will enable them to repair 220 bridges by the end of 2016. At that rate it will take 77 years to get all the bridges repaired. Of course, some other bridges will have deteriorated by the then.

This obviously won't do, and that is why I think we need the BBC. The total cost for Ohio would be about $3 billion — difficult but not impossible. For example, if we did it in five years it would take 2 percent of the state budget. Bonds could be issued for this as they have for other similar purposes And such a program would create thousands of jobs.

The bridge problem is not unique to Ohio. It is clearly a national problem, and federal establishment of the BCC might be the best answer.

In the meantime, drive carefully when you cross a bridge. Remember, every eighth bridge you cross will be defective.

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Guido H. Stempel III is a distinguished professor emeritus in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.