Government waste can be illusive at times, but sometimes it comes right to your front door, sits down, and looks you in the eye until you can’t ignore it. This was the case over the past two weeks as the State of Minnesota spent some of its Federal stimulus money tearing out and replacing every handicapped sidewalk curb cut on MN State Highway 43 (which is also Main Street) in Winona, MN. You will notice before and after photographs of the curb cut on the Northeast corner of King and Main Street.
The original cut (photo on left) was put in several years ago. It has a steeper slope than the new curb cut and is about a 18 inches narrower, but it will accommodate a wheel chair. The new curb cut also has a “bumpy grid”, which I found out is to alert blind walkers that there is a street approaching. The old curb cut was harder for wheel chairs to climb, but the steeper slope also allowed rain water to drain into the street and down into the sewer. The new curb cut slope and grade leaves a puddle at the bottom of the ramp about a foot wide (the dark rectangle covering some of the “bumpy grid” on the photo at right). This isn’t a problem in the summer, fall, or spring, but in the winter this will be solid ice. The ice will present a potential problem for those who are in scooters or chairs, but it will be a massive problem for the rest of us who will slip, fall and crack our heads at the bottom of the curb cut.
I don’t know how many millions of dollars were be spent on this project, but several of the people working on the project told me that virtually no jobs have been created. Instead of hiring additional employees, the contractors are simply paying more overtime to existing workers. After all, who wants to absorb the additional regulations and costs associated with hiring full time employees in Obamaland?
Don’t get me wrong. The construction workers, people from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and the workers from the local concrete company were all great guys. You’d want any of them as your next door neighbor. But this begs larger questions. Is the new curb cut better than the old one? Yes, slightly, if we ignore the puddle. Does the new cut meet the updated federal handicapped guidelines? Yes. Will these new cuts improve the lives of wheelchair-bound Winonans? Probably not, unless they live, work, and shop only on Main Street. After all, 90% of the curb cuts in Winona are like the ones in the old photo, have the steeper slope, and don’t comply with the updated guidelines.
What’s my point? This was a largely unnecessary project that wasted Federal stimulus money and didn’t create any jobs. It was the modern day equivalent of spending Federal money to dig a hole and fill it up again. While we do have slightly improved curb cuts to show for it, one must ask the question; “Did society really need this?” “Could we have gotten along without this?” Was it worth it to borrow our children’s money to pay for it?
As we approach the November 2 election I’m going to remember those in congress that voted for these ill-conceived shams. The guy I’m going to kick out of Congress is Rep. Tim Walz. What’s the name of the guy that you’re going to kick out of Congress?