In August 2007, a major highway bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since then, the media has been filled with lots of reports of bridges in bad shape around the country. It forced virtually every state in the nation to evaluate the conditions of their bridges. It also forced virtually every politician to reassure the public by coming out and announcing "our bridges are safe". Bridges are very important to our nation's infrastructure, and it's a topic to be seriously concerned about. Especially here in Jersey, where we have lots of bridges that date back to the early part of the 20th century and are still in use.
In October, I participated in the NY Bike Tour for MS. As I rode my bike along the entire length of the FDR Drive in Manhattan, I had an up close view of a lot of the NYC highway infrastructure. I passed under every bridge over the East River, as well as over and under the various viaducts that support the FDR Drive. I saw monster pot holes, chunks of concrete missing from support beams, and rusty metal everywhere. I don't care what the mayor says about the state of the city's bridges, all I know is that it doesn't look good!
While I can share my opinions on the NYC infrastructure based on what I saw with you, I'm not a bridge expert by any means. Not everyone out there may have an opportunity to see their local bridges up close and in person like I did on the bike tour. But now, thanks to some great work done by the folks at MSNBC, you can check up on the bridges in your neck of the woods!
MSNBC obtained "official" data on bridges all around the country from the government. They mashed that data up with Microsoft's Virtual Earth and Map Point services to create "Bridge Tracker". On their Alpha Channel blog, the folks at MSNBC wrote this post to talk about how they did it. You can check out bridge tracker here.
Bridge tracker allows you to map out the route you commute along and see condition of all of the bridges you pass over. It's a useful application if you're concerned about avoiding bridges in bad shape. It's also a great example of the power of Virtual Earth & Map Point services. You can take advantage of these services in your applications too!
To learn more about building mash ups with Virtual Earth, check out these links:
In the meantime, whenever I'm heading home from NYC via the Holland Tunnel, I'll have to cross my fingers and hope I make it over the Pulaski Skyway!