Axios Columbus

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Happy Tuesday, folks!

๐ŸŒง๏ธ Today's weather: Cloudy, rainy and possibly thunderstormy. High of 72.

๐ŸŽต Sounds like: "Look Up" as featured in "Hey Arnold!"

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Situational awareness: Congrats to "Elijah" and "adarding," who won our men's and women's March Madness bracket challenges.

Today's newsletter is 740 words โ€” a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: ๐ŸŒ‰ The state of our bridges

Share of bridges in poor condition, 2023
Data: Federal Highway Administration; Map: Will Chase and Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Although the bridge collapse in Baltimore last month was due to a series of unlikely accidents rather than crumbling infrastructure, the incident has renewed focus on the vulnerability of bridges across the U.S.

The big picture: The U.S. Department of Transportation considers 6.8% of the over 600,000 bridges it tracks and rates to be in "poor" condition.

  • That doesn't sound too bad on a percentage basis, but it's over 40,000 bridges in total.
  • The trend nationwide is nonetheless headed in a positive direction, with the percentage of bridges in poor condition cut in half since 2000.

Breaking it down: West Virginia, Iowa, South Dakota and Rhode Island fare the worst, with 15% to 20% of bridges in each state rated "poor."

  • Georgia has the highest percentage of bridges in "good" condition (75%), while in Arizona, Nevada and Texas, just 1% of bridges are rated "poor."

Zoom in: 61% of Ohio's 26,960 bridges are "good" and just 5% "poor," per the 2023 ratings.

  • That amounts to 1,251 bridges statewide considered to be structurally deficient, most of which are located in rural communities.
  • A few dozen bad bridges are along interstates and highways that see a combined 1.4 million vehicle crossings per day.

What's happening: One of those is the I-70 bridge over the Scioto River, which dates back to 1975 and has over 61,000 daily crossings.

What to watch: The federal bipartisan infrastructure law sets aside $40 billion to further repair and rebuild the nation's bridges, but that will take years to go from ink to concrete.

2. New railroad regulation requires two-person crews

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced a new rail safety rule last week. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Federal Railroad Administration recently finalized a rule mandating that U.S. freight operators staff their trains with at least two-person crews.

Why it matters: The bipartisan rail safety bill, introduced last year and co-sponsored by Ohio Sens. J.D. Vance and Sherrod Brown, included the two-person crew safety requirement, but that legislation has stalled.

  • The provision has been a sticking point between labor unions and the rail industry.

What they're saying: Brown called the regulation an "important step," but said passing the broader Railway Safety Act would ensure that railroad lobbyists couldn't roll back the rule in the future.

Between the lines: The country's largest freight railroads already typically staff their trains with two workers: an engineer and a conductor.

  • In the Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine last year, which invited renewed scrutiny on railway safety, there were actually three workers โ€” an engineer, a conductor and a conductor's trainee.
  • The derailment has been tied to an overheated wheel bearing.

The other side: The Association of American Railroads, a trade industry group, called the two-person crew mandate "unfounded and unnecessary" in a statement, saying the government had not demonstrated a connection between crew size and safety.

ICYMI: East Palestine's record of devastating train derailments

3. Nutshells: Your local news roundup

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

๐Ÿ•ถ Don't toss away your eclipse glasses. Instead, donate them at Columbus Metropolitan Library branches for use in countries that will experience an eclipse in October. (WCMH-TV)

โœ๏ธ Yesterday's eclipse inspired local folk singer Bill Cohen to write a song about unity. (Dispatch)

๐Ÿ—ณ Secretary of State Frank LaRose warns that President Biden may not be on the November ballot because of the timing of Democrats' nominating convention. (WOSU)

๐Ÿ“ฃ Gov. Mike DeWine's State of the State speech will be livestreamed tomorrow at noon. (Ohio Channel)

4. ๐Ÿ“ธ Photo quiz: Hidden in plane sight

Where can you find these statuesque brothers? Photo: Tyler Buchanan/Axios

Tyler is pictured next to these inventive brothers โ€ฆ but where?

  • Learning minds are burning bright,
  • It's not just these two taking flight.

๐Ÿ“ฌ Reply with the right answer and for a chance to win Axios swag!

  • We'll have the answer in tomorrow's newsletter.
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5. ๐Ÿ‘€ Eclipse had rentals all booked solid

Share of Airbnb and Vrbo listings booked ahead of the April&nbsp8 eclipse
Data:ย AirDNA; Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

If you're already anticipating the next total solar eclipse โ€” up in the Northwest in 2044 โ€” it might be worth booking your trip earlier rather than later.

State of play: Airbnbs and similar offerings were booked solid in and around the path of totality this week, per estimates from short-term rental analytics platform AirDNA.

  • It painted an almost perfect picture of the path the eclipse took as it crossed America from Texas to Maine.

Thankfully, Tyler didn't need a rental to enjoy the big day.

  • He found a nature preserve off the beaten path in Morrow County and took in the spectacle alone (and at peace) in the woods.
Darkened trees during an eclipse in the woods.
Totality as seen in the Flying Squirrel Preserve in Morrow County. Photo: Tyler Buchanan/Axios

What's (way) next: Those who prefer to stay put will have to wait until Ohio's next total solar eclipse in 2099.

  • Don't worry โ€ฆ that's only 19 presidential elections away!

This newsletter was edited by Lindsey Erdody and copy edited by Caitlin Wolper and Anjelica Tan.

Our picks:

๐Ÿ˜ฎ Tyler is amazed at what he saw yesterday!

๐Ÿ‘ถ๐Ÿผ Alissa is on maternity leave.

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