Archive for the ‘Bridges’ Category

Random notes: December 10, 2013.

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

One bright and lovely morning in September, on the first day of school, three traffic lanes that went from the streets of Fort Lee, New Jersey, to the George Washington bridge were suddenly shut down:

Cars backed up, the town turned into a parking lot, half-hour bridge commutes stretched into four hours, buses and children were late for school, and emergency workers could not respond quickly to the day’s events, which included a missing toddler, a cardiac arrest and a car driving into a building.

The lanes were ostensibly closed for a “traffic study”:

But the workers testified that the Port Authority already collected data on how many cars traveled in each lane, so such a traffic study would have been unnecessary.
The director of the bridge, Robert Durando, testified that in 35 years at the Port Authority, he had never heard of lanes being closed down for a traffic study.

The lanes were shut down for a total of four days. The Port Authority controls the bridge, and gave the order to shut down the lanes. And the members of the Port Authority are appointed by Chris Christie.

The mayor of Fort Lee, a Democrat, complained in a letter in September that the lane closings were “punitive” — Mr. Christie, a Republican, was leaning heavily on Democratic mayors to endorse him for re-election so he could present himself as a presidential candidate with bipartisan appeal, but the mayor was not going along.

So now the New Jersey legislature is holding hearings, and it sounds like there’s very little paperwork documenting exactly why the Port Authority decided to hold a traffic study on one of the busiest days of the year. It also sounds like there’s a lot of…obfuscation, shall we say?

On the one hand, I want to give this the “NYT covers a Republican politician” discount. On the other hand, there seems to be no dispute that three access lanes to the busiest bridge in the United States were closed for four days, and not for emergency repairs. That to me is simply inexcusable; in a case like this, I would support individuals taking it upon themselves to reopen the “closed” lanes, as well as the liberal application of tar and feathers.

Speaking of tar and feathers, here are some excerpts from yesterday’s testimony in the Kelly Thomas trial that are designed to enrage you:

“That would not be good proper police procedure,” [John A. ] Wilson [testifying as a "use of force expert" - DB], a 26-year FBI veteran, said when asked hypothetically about a suspect being hit on the head. Such a blow “is going to cause serious bodily injuries.”

Prosecutors maintain that Thomas was struck repeatedly in the face with the front of [Jay] Cicinelli’s Taser and that the injuries contributed to his death. Audio from the night captures Cicinelli saying he hit Thomas 20 times in the face with his stun gun.

Wilson also testified that when the video captures [Manuel] Ramos putting on latex gloves and threatening to punch Thomas, it was a show of force by Ramos: “It indicates there’s going to be contact made, or blood or some body fluid may be exposed as a result of a violent contact.”

In the video, Ramos puts on the gloves and tells Thomas, “See these fists? They’re getting ready to [expletive] you up.”

Wilson said officers should have stopped hitting Thomas after he started complaining that he couldn’t breathe and a pool of blood started forming on the concrete.

Morning coverage of the Spaccia conviction:

Spaccia probably faces a sentence similar to the 10 years to 12 years in prison that her former boss, Robert Rizzo, is expected to receive, prosecutors said. Rizzo pleaded no contest to 69 corruption charges in October.

I promised more coverage of the LA County Sheriff’s Department indictments, but I’d be doing it anyway. There is a lot of “Wow” going on here.

The indictments allege two assaults on inmates and three on people who visited the jail. They also include claims that deputies wrote false reports to justify using force and conducted illegal arrests and searches of jail visitors.
A sergeant who supervised deputies in the visiting area of Men’s Central Jail was accused of encouraging violence and reprimanding employees “for not using force on visitors … if the visitors had supposedly ‘disrespected’” jail deputies, according to an indictment.

Remember, these aren’t inmates (not that it would be any better if they were): these are visitors. But wait, it gets better:

In one case, prosecutors say, an Austrian consul official trying to visit an Austrian inmate was arrested and handcuffed even though she had committed no crime and would have been immune from prosecution, the indictment said.

There’s even more. A crooked jailer smuggled a cell phone in for an inmate who was an FBI informant.

After the discovery, sheriff’s officials moved the inmate — identified only as “AB” in the indictment — and changed his name. They then altered the department’s internal inmate database to falsely say he had been released, prosecutors allege. Deputies continued to isolate the inmate even after federal authorities had told sheriff’s officials that a judge had ordered the inmate’s appearance before a grand jury, the indictment states.

Can you say, “obstruction of justice”? I knew you could. But it gets even better:

Stephen Leavins, a lieutenant in the unit that handles allegations of criminal misconduct against sheriff’s employees, was accused of directing two sergeants to confront an FBI agent working on the investigation outside her home. The sergeants — Scott Craig and Maricella Long — falsely told the agent that a warrant was being prepared for her arrest, prosecutors said in court records.

They tried to intimidate an FBI agent? Does LACSD make it a practice to hire and promote deputies who are dumber than a bag of hair?

For a while now, I’ve felt like the HouChron is trying to become more like BuzzFeed; if you look at their website, there’s a huge emphasis on slideshows and listicles. I generally don’t like linking to that crap (though the slide shows of fair food are often interesting) but here’s an exception: historical photos of Bonnie and Clyde. The HouChron isn’t kidding around with the “graphic photos” warning, either; there are a couple of photos of Bonnie and Clyde after the shootout. (There’s also some nice photos of a couple of their guns, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

(Yeah, it is tied to the mini-series, which I didn’t watch, but the photos are still interesting on their own.)

Edited to add: Grammar question. “A FBI agent” or “An FBI agent”? “A FBI informant” or “An FBI informant”?

The Bridges of Cuyahoga County.

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Well, just one bridge, really.

I keep thinking of these as “Egyptian”, but they’re not, really: they’re Art Deco.

bridge1

bridge2

bridge3

These are a couple of the pylons, known as the “Guardians of Traffic”, at the ends of the Hope Memorial Bridge in downtown Cleveland. (AKA the “Lorain-Carnegie Bridge”.) We drove across this bridge several times, since it is the best route to the Westside Market. (“The bridge connects Lorain Avenue on Cleveland’s west side and Carnegie Avenue on the east side, terminating just short of Progressive Field.” Heh. My mother observed that everywhere we went in Cleveland, it seemed like we had to drive past Progressive Field. By the end of the trip, she was rather tired of it. In comparison, I think we drove past Browns Stadium twice, and Quicken Loans Arena once.)

The “Hope” in “Hope Memorial” is William Henry Hope, Bob Hope’s father. Mr. Hope was a stonemason who worked on the pylons when the bridge was built.

A reliable source tells me:

When the Cavs were in the playoffs, the city put Cavs sweatbands on the foreheads of the two closest to the Q, where the Cavs play.

There’s really no good place to park near the bridge and the pylons, so these photos were taken either with the iPhone camera or compact cameras, by myself and my mother, out of or through the windows of a moving rental car, while trying not to obstruct traffic. If I get a chance to go back and the weather is nice, I plan to get some better pictures with the big camera.

TMQ Watch: February 5, 2013.

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Today’s the last TMQ of the season!
Hurrah, hurrah!
No more “cosmic thoughts”!
Hurrah, hurrah!
The readers will cheer and the blogger will shout!
And we’ll all feel happy after the last TMQ of the year…

(more…)

When are we going to get to the fireworks factory?

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

How about “never”? Is “never” good enough for you?

A truck laden with fireworks exploded on an elevated expressway in central China on Friday, unleashing a blast that threw vehicles 30 yards to the ground below and killing at least nine people, state news reports said.

Random notes: December 26, 2012.

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

The NYT was running a little behind yesterday, and didn’t post their Charles Durning obit until later in the day. (Also, thanks to Lawrence and Guffaw for their comments yesterday.)

Likewise, the A/V Club is operating on holiday time: they did publish a nice obit for Jack Klugman, but have not gotten around to Charles Durning yet. (Edited to add: the A/V Club’s obit for Durning is up now.)

On the night after Christmas 40 years ago, two buses carved a thin line across the vast blackness of the New Mexico plains. They carried 58 young people and seven chaperones from Woodlawn Baptist Church in South Austin, the passengers still reveling in the merry holiday glow, en route to a religious retreat and skiing in the eastern New Mexico mountains.

19 people were killed when one of the buses crashed. 16 of them were teenagers. This is one of those bits of Austin history that I was previously unaware of; I commend the Statesman story (and the sidebar about how horrible the highway bridge was) to your attention.

Random observation.

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

At least 90% of the time (if not more), when someone tells me “you shouldn’t burn bridges”, that person has just finished pouring gasoline all over the structure in question, and is now standing in the middle of the bridge flicking their Zippo.

Making the news personal.

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

I wouldn’t ordinarily make note of the five guys arrested for conspiring to blow up a bridge in Ohio. Terrorist plots are a dime a dozen these days, and it seems that many of them turn out to be a bunch of losers who couldn’t organize a piss-up in a brewery without help from undercover FBI agents.

But I’ve noted before that I have family in the Cleveland area. Some of them live in Sagamore Hills, and I’ve driven over the Ohio 82 bridge many times while visiting them.

Here’s what that bridge looks like in Google Maps satellite view:


View Larger Map

And here’s your Google Image Search results for the Ohio 82 bridge. It is a nice looking bridge, I have to admit.

Random notes: April 18, 2012.

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Invasive species are good eating.

Frankly, yeah, I can see eating tiger shrimp. The Asian Carp…well, it makes me think of the old joke about how to prepare carp. (Nail it to a board, prop it in front of a fire until one side turns black, turn the board over and wait until the other side turns black, then throw the fish away and eat the board.) I’m not a big chili fan, but nutria bourguignon could be interesting. And as for feral hogs, let me just say two words: feral bacon.

This one goes out to Andrew: how to replace a bridge in a weekend, instead of months.

Oh, look! Greg “Three Cups of Tea” Mortenson is being sued for fraud!

The lawsuit is asking a judge to order that everybody who bought the books be refunded. Whatever money is left over would go to a humanitarian organization selected by the plaintiffs’ attorneys and approved by the court.

Would it shock you to learn that one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs was also involved in the James Frey lawsuit?

Public service announcement.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

The Texas Department of Transportation is closing the ramp from northbound 183 to southbound Loop 1 this coming weekend. The closure is supposed to start at 9 PM Friday, and run until 5 AM Monday.

TXDOT does have a pretty good reason for the closure; they’re repairing a section of the highway damaged in a horrible tanker truck accident/explosion last fall.

Lonesome Roads.

Monday, July 18th, 2011

The Texas Department of Transportation has been building a couple of additional “flyover” connections down south of town; specifically, at the intersection of Loop 1 (also known locally as “MoPac”) and U.S. Highway 290.

Unfortunately, TXDOT contracted with Wiser Construction,  a company based in Nevada. (The Statesman says Wiser is based in Las Vegas, but all the business addresses I found for them are in Moapa, which is about 55 miles away according to Google Maps.)

Why is that unfortunate? Because Wiser Construction declared bankruptcy last week and walked off the job, leaving the flyovers uncompleted. (A search of the two Las Vegas newspapers turned up nothing about this bankruptcy.)

Edited to add 7/19: Here’s a link to another Statesman story. If you look at both that story, and the blog post I linked to yesterday, neither one currently contains any mention of bankruptcy. (The Statesman blog post appears to have been revised sometime after my original post.)

A bond insurance company informed TxDOT’s Austin office Monday in a letter that Wiser Construction Co. would not complete the $8.4 million job, said Tim Weight, TxDOT’s Austin district director of construction. The letter did not explain why the Las Vegas company was quitting the project, Weight said.

However, this story from KUVE still refers to the contractor’s bankruptcy.

Public service announcement #3.

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

The planned closure of I-35 at Ben White/Texas 71 this weekend is still on.

Even better, the Texas Department of Transportation is also planning to close I-35 the weekend of March 4th as well. Yes, that’s two weekends in a row.

Next to come, [TXDOT spokesman John] Hurt said, will be various weeknight closures for the construction of flyovers linking eastbound Ben White to southbound I-35 and northbound I-35 to eastbound Ben White.

And:

…installing beams for the flyover linking northbound I-35 to westbound Ben White will once again require weekend closures of the I-35 main lanes, Hurt said. It is unclear when that work will occur or how many weekends might be involved.

Is there any good news?

The $26 million project and all four bridges should be done by September.

That would be just in time for the start of the UT football season. Anybody think that’s a coincidence?

Public service announcement #2.

Monday, February 14th, 2011

TXDOT states that they’re planning to close I-35 at Ben White Boulevard again the weekend of February 25th.

Does anyone have any first-hand reports from this weekend’s closure they’d care to post? I tried to stay as far away from I-35 as I could; I saw one report in the Statesman of 15-minute delays at that intersection, but someone close to WCD stated they’d heard the delay was more like an hour.