Zeno’s bridge

Remember Zeno’s Paradox? Achilles gives a tortoise a head-start in a foot race, but can never overtake it. By the time Achilles has run to where the tortoise started, the tortoise has moved ahead a bit, and by the time Achilles covers that bit, the tortoise has moved further. And so on, ad infinitum.

Well, if you ever want to get a big infrastructure contract in Boston, like fixing the decaying Longfellow Bridge, you’d do well to keep Zeno in mind when you prepare your sales pitch.

Check out this super-slick animated presentation about the Longfellow Bridge rehabilitation project now underway in Boston. It’s a really cool look at how the engineers will accomplish it and every detail is covered in their plan, which they created at the time the project went out for bid.

After watching this thing, you will be 100% confident they know what they’re doing and have taken all eventualities into account. There can be no doubt they’ll complete the work on time and maybe even under budget.

Wrong again, suckers!

The project was begun in 2013 and was going to be completed in mid-2016. But guess what? When they started the repairs, they found out there were some problems that they hadn’t figured on. “Like what?”, you may ask, “that animation they did had everything covered”. Well, see, it turned out some elements of the steel supports were rusty!


Now, I’m no engineer and I certainly have no experience making animated sales pitches, so naturally my first thought was, “No shit. That’s why we need to fix the bridge, remember?”

Anyway, when the first deadline of three years passed, the engineers said, yeah, well, we’ll be done in a couple or three more years, maybe in late 2018. When they said that, they may have really believed they could do it (or not), and, anyway, it was so  far into the future that no one would remember when the time came.

Well, we’re six months away from 2018, so they better move fast. When I look at the bridge today, it seems about half done. They’ve got the Red Line tracks moved over to one side and the entire roadway on the other side is removed. I took this picture the other day.


In my lay opinion, and given the way things always work around here, there’s no way this project can be completed in 2018. Around September of next year, you can expect them to say, “We’re almost there. Only about 12 months left. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

To which Zeno will reply, “No worries, Achilles, you’ll probably pass that tortoise any day now”.



















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