We don't give much thought to bridges and how essential they are in daily life until one is not available for a day or two or a week.
The water line break under the Carpenter Road bridge across the Tuolumne River has been disruptive for nearly 20,000 drivers who use that route regularly.
Three rivers, numerous creeks and even more canals criss-cross Stanislaus County, meaning we have a lot of bridges.
The 53-year-old Carpenter Road bridge is in the midst of a $10 million upgrade. The water line that failed runs on the north side of the bridge.
Caltrans maintains an inventory of bridges throughout the state, listing them online. You can check the age, rating and health of bridges you cross regularly. If you're not sure, go to http://is.gd/HZOhp9. Search for Stanislaus County or the county that interests you. Most bridges are described by the features they cross (river or canal, generally) and the street name. If you're unsure about location, click the bridge number and it will take you to a map.
For Modesto, for instance, the inventory lists 24 bridges, nine of which have been graded as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete by the Federal Highway Administration criteria. The Carpenter bridge is not among the nine.
Three of Modesto's 24 bridges cross the Tuolumne, four cross Dry Creek and most of the others cross Modesto Irrigation District canals.
Lots of people and organizations aim for a fresh look with the new year. Among them is the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance, a k a Stanislaus Alliance. Its website has been updated with a more succinct menu of the services it offers to existing businesses, to job seekers, to entrepreneurs and to companies considering locating in our region.
The site features testimonials from those who have been helped by the public-private agency. Alliance CEO Bill Bassitt said initial feedback has been great.
Another thing we like about the updated website, www.stanalliance.org: It no longer makes reference to the Stanislaus River Valley, the gimmicky brand that was part of a consultant-inspired marking campaign in 2004-05. Suffice to say the brand never caught on because there is no Stanislaus River Valley.
The Maddy Institute, a valley-oriented program headquartered at California State University, Fresno, is expanding its public affairs programs. Starting Sunday, a one-hour news program will air on 580 KMJ, a 50,000-watt Fresno radio station that can be heard here in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. The show will air from 9 to 10 a.m. Sundays.
The first half-hour will be an audio version of the institute's weekly TV program, The Maddy Report. The second half hour, referred to as Valley Views, will feature guests from throughout the valley and on both sides of the political spectrum.
The first program will discuss the recent "fiscal cliff" standoff and congressional gridlock. Guests will be include Michael Doyle, national correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers from Washington, D.C.
The Parent Institute for Quality Education, which has a strong presence locally, got a plug and a grant from actress Eva Longoria, whose philanthropy was featured in a Dec. 28 interview on CNN. PIQE began in the San Diego area in 1987; the Modesto area program began in 1997 and has since helped nearly 30,000 parents learn about how schools work and how they can help their children succeed in academics. More information is available at http://piqe.org/ contact_modesto.php or by calling (209) 238-9496
A few more donations came in late last week, bringing the final total for the 2012 Book of Dreams to $62,269.54, setting a record for our annual charity drive. Thank you again to all of the contributors.