The long-lasting impact of civil-engineering decisions
February 17, 2010

In our presentation to the Iowa Rural Water Association conference yesterday, we noted that utilities, communities, and other institutions need to record the processes by which they come to their decisions, so that people in the future can understand why things are the way they are. We use examples like the cleaning and re-lining of century-old water systems to illustrate that decisions often have lingering effects that last much longer than we're ordinarily inclined to expect. The Omaha World-Herald today makes note of the 1959 decision that changed the route of Interstate 80 across Nebraska, freeing it from the requirement to follow the path of US Highway 30 across the state. While the two highways today run in parallel across much of central and western Nebraska, that decision a half-century ago undoubtedly did much to influence the futures of towns like Columbus, Fremont, and Central City, which are along the Highway 30 route but not along I-80. An estimated 23,000 vehicles pass by York each day on Interstate 80 -- while 4,200 pass Columbus on Highway 30.

February 2010
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last revised February 2010