After months of testing and research the scientists came up with a new model for simulating wave erosion on concrete pier supports. They presented the model to the lead engineer prior to the construction of the new bridge. The model would, potentially, undo months of work that had already gone into the bridge, work that was unique to the project because the building site had been chosen in haste, with barely a month of public consultation and surveying. An official was up for re-election and they wanted to ensure they had something to campaign on before the end of their term. The river that the bridge would span had both unusually strong wave patterns and uncomfortably silty soil at the place it was to be erected. These had been accounted for but according to the model, only ineffectively: the new model suggested a complete overhaul of the piers. The email the engineer sent to the scientists was polite, but curt: “Your model is simply too new, and remains untested in the field.” They went ahead with the project, even though their initial contractor—alerted to these concerns—backed out. After five months they noticed an issue with one of the piers near the east bank. This presented serious difficulty, as the pier was already supporting a significant length of deck. Upon further review they discovered that eight of the twelve piers were either similarly compromised or showing signs of developing complementary weaknesses. In their report to the official overseeing the project, the lead engineer wrote “it seems likely that we should have taken the revised model into account.” The official attempted, unsuccessfully, to obtain additional funding to complete the project, but by this point the cost overrun and delay in construction had already become a major local scandal. They were defeated in the next election, and the bridge was left incomplete, with major cracks in the concrete eventually exposing its steel foundations, buckling appearing on the surface of the bridge. Five years later two teenagers fell off and drowned while exploring the site with their friends, and the official’s successor raised capital to have the bridge torn down to the level of the piers. Though they have lost nearly all structural integrity, many of the piers miraculously still stand—they can be seen to your right when taking the western detour into town, or on your left as you are leaving, looking over the traffic coming from the opposite side.

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