The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Sunday, March 9, 2008

LA Freeways rebuilt in New York Minute

May 25, 2007, 1:03 pm
California Freeway Rebuilt in a New York Minute

By Patrick J. Lyons

Tags: california, disasters, transportation

Your blogger has the good fortune to have three close relatives in the civil engineering profession, and thus ample opportunity to watch a civil engineer’s mind at work and play, often at the same time.

You and I may see photos of a disaster and think things like “What an awful mess!” or “There but for fortune … ” or, if you are a lawyer, perhaps “Are any of my clients on the hook for that?”

But put those same pictures in front of an engineer, and watch the eyes light up and burn in on the tell-tale details in the wreckage. The engineers I know are born storytellers as well as forensic scientists, and it’s fascinating to hear a good one tease the narrative of destruction out of the bewildering mass of bent steel, shorn bolts and cracked concrete, like a musician scanning the densely annotated score of a new concerto. It’s all there if you can read it, but it may not sound anything like it looks.

So, it seems, with this mess:
Macarthur mazeWorkers got started removing debris from freeway overpasses near the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge at the end of April, a day after a gasoline tanker truck overturned and burned, damaging the overpasses. (Photo: Noah Berger/Bloomberg News)

It sure looked like the damage done to the MacArthur Maze, the freeway interchange at the eastern end of the Bay Bridge, by a burning gasoline tanker truck on April 29 was going to take months to repair. Even the experts at the California Department of Transportation (everybody out there calls it CalTrans) thought so. Crossbay commuters and businesses dependent on trucks crossing the bridge would be faced with a long summer of traffic tangles and frustrating delays, everyone thought.

Everyone except C.C. Myers. A week after the disaster, when CalTrans invited highway contractors with a track record of alacrity to bid on repairing the worst-affected part, the I-580 connector, Mr. Myers looked over the damage and the plans and said he could get it done in 25 days — half the time allowed under the CalTrans contract.

And he did. The highway reopened this morning. The San Francisco Chronicle’s web site relates the tale nicely.

The Bay Area has long loved the kind of charge-ahead guy who makes big, brash promises about getting the job done in record time and then comes through. Henry J. Kaiser built a hero’s reputation when his shipyards in Richmond, a few miles north of the bridge, cranked out Liberty cargo ships during World War II in as little as four days apiece; a rival yard across the bay in Sausalito set a record by getting a whole oil tanker built and launched in just four weeks.

Being a cynical New Yorker, though, your blogger is tempted to rain on today’s parade a bit by wondering whether breakneck speed is exactly what society ought to be going for when it comes to highway construction, especially in an earthquake zone. (Those hustled-together Liberty ships had a habit of springing leaks, remember.)

But then, if you’re from, say, Boston, you know that agonizingly slow highway construction is no guarantee that there won’t be problems, either.

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