The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Maryland’s Water Main Drama

What was that about investing in our crumbling infrastructure, again?

I ask because a water main somewhere in Montgomery County, Maryland, ruptured today and washed out much of my day. Though my experience was nothing compared to what some people had to deal with.

Watching that rescue, I’m glad were weren’t driving down that particular load when the massive water main rupture happened. We’d have definitely had the kids with us.

A massive underground pipe rupture flooded River Road with four feet of rapidly swirling water this morning — trapping motorists, blocking a major commuter artery linking Washington with the Maryland suburbs and leading to the dramatic helicopter rescue of a woman and a child from one of the vehicles.

The break caused “widespread water outages” in school buildings across lower Montgomery County, officials said, affecting the heating system in some cases as well. As a result, all schools will close 2 1/2 hours early this afternoon, the school system announced just after 11 a.m.

The aging, 66-inch water pipe burst shortly before 8 a.m., sending a four-foot wall of water onto River Road near Congressional Country Club in Bethesda and trapping 15 people in about a dozen vehicles. Most got out of their cars on their own and reached dry land with help from rescue crews, boats and ropes, officials said.

But “as the water became more and more turbulent,” five others had to be evacuated from their vehicles, said Richard Bowers, acting Montgomery fire chief.


Before today, infrastructure needs in our area hadn’t hit any closer to home than the end of our block, where water main improvements have been going on since last week. Not that we’re complaining. After all, the water mains in our neighborhood are at least 40 years old, and are too small for the present-day population. So, maybe the improvements mean that our neighborhood won’t lose water as often.

Our street is small potatoes compared to what’s next with the water main break, let alone repairing the road, etc. Just like the disruption in my day consisted of leaving work early and racing home to be there when our son got off the bus after his school closed early, instead of being rushed to the hospital with our kids.

My guess is that conservatives wouldn’t label water main repairs “pork,” but I probably shouldn’t speak too soon, since one of our Senators has already taken a lesson from today’s events: Maryland’s infrastructure needs work.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has already drawn a lesson from the water main break that is still sending frigid water gushing down Montgomery County’s River Road. The takeaway: Montgomery County needs more federal money for infrastructure.

After complimenting first responders for pulling trapped drivers out of harm’s way, he noted during an interview with MSNBC that “this water main wasn’t that old,” but added that “these are the types of projects we want to see addressed” in President-elect Barack Obama’s upcoming economic stimulus package.

“These are exactly the types of programs we want to get started,” he said, suggesting that the scale of the accident will mean “special attention to Montgomery County” will be paid by the next Congress.

If there’s infrastructure work to be done in Maryland it’s likely that — as in other states — there’s not much money for them. The schools in our state just took a $38 billion hit, some of them are closing — taking more than 900 jobs with them — and another 67,000 state workers are getting furloughed, with layoffs possible down the road.

So, either we can make an investment in our infrastructure, or wait for the next water main to burst.

At least we don’t live near any levees. I think.

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