Seeking a line between government's right to retain information (it deems secret) and those times that transparency is what is best for its citizens

We all can agree that there are secrets best kept by government from the public for a multitude of reasons. For one thing, we will all agree that issues affecting national security, such as secret weapons, tactics to be used in the event of attack on our shores, etc., must be given protection from our enemies who could use that information to our detriment. There are incidents in our history, such as the full investigation into who killed John F. Kennedy which arguably, if they contain sensitive information, could fall into that category that the public is best not given the full and true picture.

However, I am not sure about total secrecy on such issues as whether we have aliens from another planet amidst us should be kept secret, but after several viewings of Men in Black and learning that some very famous people on the planet may well be amongst that non-human species, I can understand why facts about UFOs could be validly withheld from general knowledge.

But when it comes to facts about our infrastructure and the potentially perilous conditions of our bridges, roads, dams and electric grid I have gained too much information as a result of authoring “Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward” to allow any claim by government that withholding such information from the public is a good thing. So this recent article authored by a very respected journalist identifies the spurious efforts of the New Jersey Transit folks to disclose information on which rail bridges may be in critical need of attention has brought this issue to the forefront. I wish to share my concern with each of you.

A NJ Transit passenger train passes over the train bridge at the Garfield Train Station

A NJ Transit passenger train passes over the train bridge at the Garfield Train Station

“Tens of thousands of NJ Transit commuters cross them on trains every day. But the statewide public transportation agency, which maintains hundreds of rail bridges, won't share any information with the public that would reveal whether they're safe or not.”

It seems that the journalist, Curtis Tate, who has written extensively on infrastructure issues for many years, sought to identify whether the NJ Transit officials have categorized railway bridges under its jurisdiction and showing signs of excessive corrosion and wear and tear associated with other structurally deficient bridges around the nation, was rebuffed repeatedly by the authorities. When he finally asked why they would not furnish the condition reports in their files that would validate serious concern for the bridges these railroads use for the travelling public, Tate was summarily told that:

"NJ Transit is in possession of documents containing information which, if disclosed, would jeopardize the safety and security of NJ Transit bridges," the denial letter said.

A further request to the NJ Attorney General’s office got a similar refusal and the statement that the documents "contain sensitive technical...information regarding the structural integrity of nearly six hundred bridges" maintained by the agency. Think about that: although New Jersey has hundreds, if not thousands of the nation’s approximately 55,000 structurally deficient bridges and these are widely known to the general public who seek this information, learning which rail bridges are in danger of collapse, bridges that carry a million passengers a year, is a secret only to be shared by those with Top Secret clearances.

When Curtis spoke with me for his article I pointed out that on the fifth anniversary of the collapse on August 1, 2007 of the I-35W in Minneapolis which killed 13 people and injured another 145, I published a Google map at that permitted every citizen who entered a zip code to see all the structurally deficient\fracture critical bridges (those in danger of imminent collapse) in that area. This website has been quoted publicly on many of the TV and radio stations with whom I have interviewed over the past ten years AND NO GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORITY HAS EVER ASKED ME TO TAKE IT DOWN for any reason, let alone national security reasons. Why then, I asked, could any transportation agency seek to preclude this acknowledgement of pending disaster from the questioning press or the public whom it serves?

We truly deserve better from our public officials. I hope that journalists such as Curtis Tate continue that fight. I hope he convinces his publishers to take this battle to court as an affront to our first amendment rights. And I hope that one day, the sunlight of transparency will shine brightly on our state and federal government leaders who, for the past four decades, have failed to exhibit the political will and the political leadership to make repairs to our imperiled infrastructure a primary mission before further disasters occur. I hope we all win that ultimate victory.

As always, please let me have your thoughts and ideas in response to this issue.

Trump’s infrastructure plan is “dead on arrival”: Barry LePatner

Following the recent derailment of an Amtrak commuter train north of Seattle, the producers of MSNBC reached out to me and asked me to join Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle to discuss this disaster and the subject of our nation’s infrastructure. The five minute interview is shown by clicking on the image above.

MSNBC has highlighted the interview by citing my statement that the soon to be revealed Trump infrastructure plan is “dead on arrival”. I believe there will be little likelihood that the members of Congress can support a plan to improve our perilous infrastructure by adding $200 billion more to the nation’s deficit which just experienced an increase in the national debt of $1.5 trillion from the newly-passed tax plan of the GOP. Moreover, the infrastructure plan is heavily weighted to require states to make up a large portion of the $800 billion to be raised by outside equity and state contributions. This would only be possible by increases in state taxes – taxes that are not always deductible by its citizens under the new tax law.

For those of you who wrote about not receiving the video of my recent interview with Bob Herbert, former op-ed columnist for the NYTimes as shown on CUNY-TV, here is the link of that discussion about our nation’s infrastructure.

Please share your comments and let me extend my warmest wishes to all for the upcoming holidays and the New Year

Can Failing Infrastructure Be Bad For Your Health?

THE STREAM ALJAZEERA Tuesday, 5 Sept 2017 | 3:30 PM ET

Barry LePatner appeared on “The Stream” a live interview program put out to over 250 million households across the world by Aljazeera. Joining in on the discussion was a quite interesting group of knowledgeable participants including: Tom Smith, Executive Director, American Society of Civil Engineers, John Nichols, Author, "Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse” and Political correspondent, The Nation Magazine and Tanvi Misra, Staff writer, CityLab. The conversation addressed the state of the U.S. infrastructure and the prospects for remediating this troubled sector of our nation.

Barry LePatner is interviewed on CNBC to discuss our nation's infrastructure in light of the failed dam in Orreville, CA.

Barry LePatner was interviewed on CNBC by the four hosts of the daily business TV program, “Power Lunch" to discuss the state of our nation’s infrastructure and the news surrounding the failed dam in Orreville, California.

The hosts were very savvy on the subject and most interested when he urged the need for an “infrastructure Czar” to break thru the morass of the logjam created by the US Congress for the past several decades.

Mr. LePatner believes there remains substantial congressional logjams that will mitigate against the full onslaught of pushing through a comprehensive infrastructure program over the next few years. While we should remain hopeful, as this was a strong issue for President Trump, the hurdles his administration will face in trying to effect such a program will be substantial.

Under Scrutiny, States Trim List of Bad Bridges

Oh, if only we could just say it is true and have it become so. Here is yet another blatant attempt by the American Society of Civil Engineers to sugarcoat the serious problems with our nation’s bridge infrastructure. It is bad enough that the ASCE consistently issues an Infrastructure Report Card giving our ailing bridges a “C+” every few years. This totally ignores the fact that we have nearly 8,000 bridges that are both structurally deficient and fracture critical, meaning they can collapse – just as the )-35W in Minnesota and the I-5 over the Skagit River in Washington did in recent years – posing a deadly threat to the traveling public. Not to mention that 140,000 vehicles every day travel 3.5 miles over the Tappan Zee Bridge (which has to wait a few more years for a replacement), which gives boaters under the bridge a chance to look up and see skylight seeping thru the failing substructure. Please see my comment at the end of the ASCE-generated article. We will need to continue to “hold our collective breaths” until either further unwarranted tragedy occurs or Congress begins to see the proverbial light to enhanced funding.

LePatner Interviewed on 20/20

March 18, 2013

Barry LePatner was interviewed on 20/20 this past Friday night on its segment covering "America's Most Dangerous Bridges." Citing research from his book, Too Big To Fall on the perilous state of our nation's infrastructure, LePatner advocated more dedicated funds be allocated toward repair and maintenance, especially for the more than 8,000 structurally deficient and fracture critical bridges across the country. You can see all of them at

And stay off the Tappan Zee!

Barry LePatner being interviewed in LePatner's offices by 20/20 correspondent, Deborah Roberts.

Barry LePatner being interviewed in LePatner's offices by 20/20 correspondent, Deborah Roberts.

LePatner appearing on 20/20 Fri Mar 15 at 10pm

I thought that interest in the nation’s infrastructure plight would fall off drastically within a few days of President Obama’s State of the Union address in mid-January where he alluded to the need for more investment to improve the “72,000 structurally deficient bridges” across our nation. Yes, there were the interviews I gave to BBC-TV and appearances on CNBC’s First Business, along with radio and newspaper quotes over the next week or two. But I then expected the nation would quickly return to the sequester fun that the US Congress is having, the novelty of a Pope resigning for the first time in 700 years, or the burning issue as to whether the 100 magazines that pictured Taylor Swift on their covers in 2012 ever saw even the tiniest bump in circulation from putting her on the cover as opposed to Angelina Jolie or Jessica whoever (in fact, there was not the slightest bump up for sad Taylor).

So I was somewhat surprised to hear directly from a producer for ABC-TV’s highly acclaimed 20/20 that they wanted to come over and do an interview on infrastructure for their show this Friday night. It was only early on Monday morning of this week that the producers mentioned that the interview would be done by Deborah Roberts, who appeared several hours later all prepared to discuss the fragility of our nation’s bridges and just how we got ourselves into this sorry state of affairs. Within two hours, 20/20's crew literally set up an interview studio in the rear section of our offices using hundreds of feet of cabling, lots of hot lights and cameras galore.

As the interview proceeded it was apparent that Ms. Roberts began to grasp the enormity of the crisis blurting out, “so, it’s not about if these 8,000 structurally deficient bridges that are also fracture critical bridges are going to fall someday, … it’s …" and she left off in a rather theatrical way, nodding for me to finish the sentence…."it’s just a matter of when since every engineer associated with bridge design and maintenance understands that gravity always wins.”

The full interview will be shown this coming Friday on 20/20 at 10 PM EDT. Tune in and let me know if I made a persuasive case for one of our nation’s most underrated subjects needing immediate attention.

-Barry LePatner

The Seattle Times Reviews "Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward"

Mike Lindblom, transportation writer for “The Seattle Times,” recently wrote on article on Barry LePatner’s new book “Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward”. The article, entitled “‘Too Big to Fall:’ the hazardous health of America’s roads and bridges“ highlight’s the nation’s denial regarding the state of its infrastructure, noting “Elected officials crave the fame of cutting the ribbon on a new highway, rather than maintaining an old bridge.”

Linblom’s article notes that some politicians have awakened to the crisis, which makes "'Too Big to Fall’ a timely book.” In the mean time while the crumbling continues with America’s infrastructure, the article endorses LePatner’s urging of states to install strain gauges, weight scales, cameras and corrosion sensors to gather bridge data around the clock, instead of trusting sporadic visual inspections.

For his Seattle readers, Lindblom notes that even in the “enlightened Washington state,” only about $1.1 billion of the $9 billion 2011-12 transportation budget goes directly to highway preservation or maintenance.” Lindblom advises, “Washington state Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond suggests a quota for maintenance in the next round of Washington state transportation taxes — even if fewer new lanes are built. Until then, this book offers professional and armchair engineers a wealth of history to place future road failures in perspective.”

Mr. Lindblom’s article is another example of the need for spreading the word and sounding the alarm regarding the nation’s failing infrastructure. The fear of cost overruns should not doom infrastructure projects, where there exists a methodology to eliminate these concerns. The LePatner C³ Model allows owners to regain control of their projects and re-balance their relationship with the contractor by obtaining, for the first time, true complete-price contracts with those building their projects.

Is the Tappan Zee Bridge "Too Big to Fall"?

The alarming story told by Barry B. LePatner in his new book, Too Big to Fall, is making the rounds. In a recent article in the New York Post, LePatner gave an interview that resulted in a full page article entitled “Bridge of Size: Tappan Zee, like many other US bridges, is falling down.”

The article uses the story of the quite perilous state of the Tappan Zee Bridge, over which 140,000 vehicles cross the Hudson River each day, to illustrate the perilous situation that our nation's infrastructure faces. Citing statistics from Too Big to Fall, the article, written by Lois Weiss, relates to the 7,980 bridges in the nation that are both structurally deficient as well as fracture critical. Fracture critical bridges are vulnerable to collapse if even one critical structural member fails, a possibility made even more likely when these bridges are subject to corrosion and deterioration due to deferred maintenance.

The Tappan Zee may be replaced for an estimated $16 billion (if not more due to unwarranted cost overruns that plague the construction industry) if the funding can be found. However, finding funding is highly unlikely in these budget deficit days. This exposes millions of travelers annually over that bridge to face a very dangerous prospect indeed.

Barry LePatner interviewed on REFI Radio

Hear Barry LePatner discuss the critical infrastructure issues he details in his new book, Too Big To Fall. In this forty minute interview, he relates the realities of our nation's inefficient construction industry, as discussed in his previous book Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets, to the inability of our political leaders to properly finance proactive maintenance on our nation's deteriorating roadways, bridges, and other crucial infrastructure. We invite you to take the time to listen and then forward on to friends and others interested in these issues. Listen here.

TBTF reviewed in "Finance & Commerce"

According to Bill Clements of Finance & Commerce, Barry LePatner's soon-to-be-published book belongs in the horror genre. He writes, The title, Too Big to Fall: America's Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward, isn't exactly horror-inducing, but what it tells us is: Some 7,980 bridges are considered as perilous as the I-35W bridge was before it collapsed, killing 13 and injuring 145.