Sunday, October 7, 2012

Painted Overpasses: Only in NM?

We just got back from 12 day trip that included eight days on the road. It was a ten-state circle of the midwest: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado.

A few days in, it dawned on me that I wasn't seeing the painted concrete on overpasses that exemplify wasteful spending for me.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation told me recently that money for paint comes from the feds, from something I remember being called community enhancement funds. NMDOT said it takes and spends the money in order to not create a hassle with getting the rest of the federal money.

New Mexico budgets no money for maintenance—i.e., repainting, allowing the colored overpasses to become gray and slimy-looking over time.

OK. But what about these other states? To be sure, I didn't check off the overpasses as we passed under. Still, I don't remember painted concrete on overpasses. For sure, I don't remember any from when I started paying closer attention in South Dakota. Sometimes the steel supports are green. And Wheatland, Wyoming, has lovely sculptured steel supports on two bridges that are dark blue. The concrete remains concrete-colored.

Clearly something different happens here, something Lew Wallace noticed decades ago.

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