The post title is an old engineering saying that reflects the true nature of any engineering project. It might as well be a natural law – it holds across the board for any type of engineering endeavor. If you want a project completed quickly at the lowest cost, it won't be very good. The other options all follow from there. Which is what worries me about the rush ahead plans by Minnesota authorities to replace the collapsed bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. Some other people are starting to sound the alarm over the headlong rush to do something. Because the "something" they are leaning toward is fast and cheap.
Politicians, meanwhile, wrangled over how to replace a 1,900-foot highway span that once carried 140,000 cars a day.
The state Department of Transportation released a preliminary design Tuesday for the new bridge, but it showed little more than an aerial view of a 10-lane span, two lanes wider than the old bridge. It will be up to a contractor, to be chosen from an initial field of five, to flesh out the design.
The state's goal is to open the new bridge by the end of 2008, a speedy timetable that worries Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Steve Murphy, head of the state Senate Transportation Committee.
Murphy said transportation officials appeared to be "rushing headlong" into rebuilding, and it could lead to shortcuts that compromise safety.
"They could throw up that bridge and only spend $250 million, but 10 years from now we might be back investing another $250 million in it so it functions the way we want," he said Monday. "Let's not build it fast and not to last. Let's build it to last, period."
Both men said the state also should consider adding light rail tracks to the bridge design. The state already has expansion plans for a north-south light rail line that currently runs from downtown to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
"It's possible we could save millions of dollars by putting it on or next to this bridge, Rybak said. "Now is the time to ask that question."
But MnDOT spokeswoman Lucy Kender argued there isn't time to wait, and speed doesn't have to equal lower quality.
"Our economy, our society here, needs that bridge back up," she said.
It may be politically expedient to get it built fast, but it honestly is more important to get it done right. Officials would be advised to keep that in mind. Fast, cheap or good. Pick two.