Another federally funded bridge, this one in the middle of nowhere
arutten at stanford.edu
Mon Nov 14 11:15:33 PST 2005
As long as we are talking about federally funded bridges, here's one that I
use to get my students thinking about what our federalism means today.
It's a 50 foot footbridge on a trail through Grabtown Gulch, in the Purisima
Creek Redwoods Open Space, on the west side of the Santa Cruz Mountains
about half way between San Francisco and San Jose. The bridge was washed out
during the El Nino storms of 1998, and was rebuilt (for a little over
$200,000) with money from FEMA. Until then, one of the trails in the
Preserve was closed.
As far as I can make out, the bridge has no connection to anything remotely
federal. The park is run by the Mid-Peninsula Open Space Preserve, which
their website describes as: "a legally constituted governmental entity,
which is neither a city nor county, established for the purpose of carrying
on specific activities within...defined boundaries." The District runs a
series of open space preserves in the mountains south of San Francisco. This
particular preserve is bounded by state and county roads. The interstate is
several miles away, on the other side of the mountains.
The only thing that I could think of is that there are salmon or other
endangered fish in the stream. However, since the creek is dry most of the
year and fairly far up a hillside, this seems unlikely. (Moreover, if fish
are an issue, I'd think that it would be better not to have a bridge, since
without the bridge, nobody would come near the creek.)
The bridge is part of a much larger aid package (about $300 million) for
California that FEMA put together in the wake of the 1998 storms. That
package, which came after the President declared a disaster in 41 California
counties, funded several other repair projects on Preserve land.
Federalism issues aside, I'm hard pressed to see how this bridge can pass
any sensible cost/benefit test. There are many other trails in the Preserve,
all of them more attractive than this one.
Among other things, this project suggests that FEMA was being naughty well
Department of Political Science
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