The New I-35W Bridge

MnDOT unveiled plans for the new I-35W replacement bridge day before yesterday… Interstate 35W Bridge in Minneapolis, MN, The main distinction in alternatives seems to be which way the piers are oriented. I think the best you can say about it is that it is unimaginative, but probably better looking than what went before. One never can truly visualize the bridge until it is complete, but I am not optimistic. There are opportunities to do interesting things in the space along the water under the bridge, Sydney does some great things under highway bridges there. It is not clear if those opportunities will be taken, but that is something that can be done later.
Clearly MnDOT missed the boat on the opportunity to use airrights over the bridge for some positive good (in addition to avoiding snow removal and de-icing costs) which is too bad, but not surprising.
Nevertheless, I am amazed that if Aesthetics/Visual Quality amounted to 20% of points available for technical evaluation, that something so mediocre will be built though.

MnDOT says releasing bridge inspection records could be a threat to national security

From the Pioneer Press: MnDOT says releasing bridge inspection records could be a threat to national security.
Before you dismiss such threats as implausible, note that Osama Bin Laden was trained as a civil engineer at King Abdul Aziz University of Jedda and Yasser Arafat was trained as a civil engineer at Cairo University. Since civil engineering would seem to disproportionately lead to terrorism [perhaps too much statics?], we should be very careful who we give our bridge plans to, they might actually be able to read them (as opposed to say, going to the bridge and looking for cracks themselves, or just getting more exposives).

Counting you in your car

From the Washington Post: Infrared Scans May Regulate HOT Lanes. The latest technology used to detect cheaters in HOV/HOT lanes.
(1) Hopefully they won’t throw out this data after its collected (see previous post on LA), it does have valuable planning uses in predicting mode utilization.
(2) Any semblance of privacy you thought you had is gone, hopefully we can watch the watchers just as easily as they watch us. David Brin’s Transparent Society is interesting in this regard.
(3) The amount of effort we go to in order to enforce minor rules is amazing. In the absence of congestion on the HOV lane, (and the presence of congestion in the general purpose lanes) it is actually efficient for there to be some small amount of cheating: it takes a car out of the congested lanes, puts it in the uncongested lanes (without congesting them) and produces a net benefit to society. Too much clearly would congest the HOV/HOT lanes. It reminds one of the expression “A Puritan is someone who is deathly afraid that someone somewhere is having fun.” The point isn’t that it is costing society to have some cheating, the point is that “free riding” is cheating and “unfair” whatever that means.

Can you say megaproject …

As with many large infrastructure projects, the estimated cost of the I-35W replacement bridge rises and rises. How come public officials never over-estimate initial costs? (Perhaps a question for my Transport Policy class).
Articles from the Strib and PiPress:
Sticker shock: Bridge tab soars by $143 million
The cost of rebuilding the collapsed I-35W span is climbing

L.A. doesn’t save data on traffic growth

From the front page of the LA Times web page, an article on traffic counts!: L.A. doesn’t save data on traffic growth
“But although the sensors and computers collect massive amounts of data about traffic patterns and congestion, they do little to help engineers plan for the city’s growing transportation needs — or determine how development is affecting traffic.
That’s because the city does not save the information for more than a few days, using it only to direct traffic in real time by adjusting the speed at which lights turn from green to amber to red.”
This is true elsewhere (Minneapolis e.g.), and a damn shame. I have been in meetings about this, but people are frugal and the beneficiaries are in different departments/units than those who would do the work.

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