Coincidently, this post gets published during National Engineer’s Week in the US. That wasn’t my intention when I started writing this, but it seems to have worked out appropriately, if not well.
This past year has not been a good one for engineering in the DC area. While a major accomplishment goes unnoticed, two serious failures have rightly captured people’s attention. Why aren’t things going better?
The good news story is the drilling of the DC Clean Rivers Project. Two tunnels, 48″ and 108″, drilled under the city, will keep stormwater runoff from flooding the sewage treatment plant and contaminating the Anacostia and Potomac rivers. An incredible undertaking of engineering and construction, it has been practically invisible to the public. And it is going well (almost complete!).
Not so the other denizen of tunnels, METRO. Nothing seems to be going right for them, and hasn’t for years. Inspection not performed, repairs not made, maintenance left undone; from policy to execution nothing has gone right. When in the middle of the very-public, very-massive safety push you have train operators who still almost hit the Federal inspectors on the tracks, you know you have problems. Surprisingly (and I am very surprised, as the horror stories keep coming out) no one has been charged criminally for the years of running a system that has apparently been so woefully unable to complete even simple task. Years of falsified records and billed-but-unperformed tasks and no one has been charged? Really?? Unbelievable.
And then there’s the other major monument to problems in the engineering world, the Washington Monument. Closed for almost 3 years to repair damage from the earthquake of 2011, it opened in mid-2014. Almost immediately it had problems with the electrical systems and elevators. The elevator problem is so serious that the Monument will now be closed until 2019 for repairs. So in an 8 year period, our National Monument will have been close for almost 6 of them. Not a very good track record, not at all.
I understand complex issues, interconnected problems, deficits of money, time, and manpower. But to have to such major problems at the same time is a sad state of affairs. Maybe some of the infrastructure money being promised by the administration can help both of these out.
I hope so.