Now that the City of Barstow has started pushing forward with a significant road repair plan, one of the consequences has become an increased awareness of the city's other infrastructure update needs.


Before the city will be able to start repairing some streets in town, it has to address a few other issues first: It turns out a number of sewer and gas lines running below the streets are too old and too close to the surface. These lines need to be fixed and lowered before street reconstruction can begin. Residents have likely noticed the trucks around town making repairs.


Many of these pipes are 50 to 60 years old according to estimates. Some of them are less than a foot below the street surface. That's far too close to the surface for comfort, though apparently nobody will take responsibility for the situation. A representative for Southwest Gas shifted responsibility for safety guidelines to the California Public Utilities Commission (despite the likelihood that the guidelines the commission set up in the first place were written with heavy influence and lobbying of the gas companies themselves).


Needless to say, following the disaster in San Bruno in September, people are probably looking at the problem of the pipes as something more than just a nuisance delaying road repairs. A 54-year-old pipeline in San Bruno failed and a massive explosion resulted, killing eight people and destroying dozens of homes. Experts attribute the failure to a weld or a weakened section of pipe.


Barstow residents may recall the massive power outage in 2007 when a city worker accidentally cut a buried fiber optic cable while fixing damage to a storm drain. It essentially shut the city down (including communications with emergency services). Knowing that we have gas pipes just inches from the surface should alert us all to the possibility of a much more serious incident.


Renovation and reconstruction of Barstow's aged infrastructure should be the City of Barstow's top priority right now. It is clearly as much a public safety matter as the protection provided by the police department. Set aside and stop spending resources on other areas like parks and economic development issues (and "consultants") until the city can say with certainty that there is no danger to Barstow residents from its own infrastructure.