History Repeats Itself in California Infrastructure Debate

As the Golden Gate Bridge approaches its 75th anniversary, John King pens an incisive comparison between the arguments against the bridge's original construction and those that have challenged subsequent high-profile projects.
May 19, 2012, 11am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Seeing common ground between the arguments raised against the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge eight decades ago - "We need more details, the details we do have can't be trusted, and there are better alternatives" - and efforts to derail high-profile projects such as the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system and California's proposed high-speed rail, King observes that "little has changed in terms of the attacks that are aimed at major alterations to the landscape..."

"If there's a moral to the story of the birth of the Golden Gate Bridge, it's that there are times when change within a city, region or state comes at an exponential scale. On such occasions, the cultural status quo is threatened."

"This doesn't mean that skeptics of big plans are small-minded. Some large projects should not be built. But the what-ifs and worst-case scenarios can blind us to the fact that projects of a certain scale often reshape the landscape in ways we can't imagine. And sometimes, the landscape is the better as a result."

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Published on Sunday, May 13, 2012 in San Francisco Chronicle
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