Building Bridges

Caucus focuses on bridges, DDA-city relations, and A2D2

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (March 1, 2009): At Sunday’s caucus, Mayor John Hieftje assessed the Ann Arbor city council agenda for Monday as “fairly light.” That’s also an accurate description of the kind of loads the Stadium Boulevard bridge over State Street can currently bear – with deterioration of the structure leading to two weight limit reductions in the last year, and a reduction of traffic to two lanes last week.

Exposed Strands Stadium Bridge

Stadium Boulevard bridge at State Street: Seven pre-stressing strands exposed on beam 5. The strands run east-west – that is, in the direction of the bridge's span.

Even though it is not yet reflected on the agenda for Monday, it’s expected that Sue McCormick, public services director of the city of Ann Arbor, will brief council on the bridge at the start of its meeting.

Some of the handful of residents at caucus were there to inquire about the bridge (and city finances in general), while others were there to weigh in on the A2D2 (Ann Arbor Discovering Downtown) rezoning process, which the planning commission is literally in the midst of deliberating.

Also receiving some discussion was the Sunday editorial in the Ann Arbor News on the recent request by the city for the DDA to increase its revenues to ensure adequate reserves. A first-time caucus attendee was there to discuss a situation in the field services department of the city, which could be given little commentary by councilmembers present, in light of the fact that it involved a personnel matter.

Who was there representing city council? Ward 5 had a full complement with Carsten Hohnke and Mike Anglin both attending. Sabra Briere held the standard high for Ward 1. And Hieftje rounded out the council quartet.

Stadium Bridge at State Street

Some background: There are two nearly adjacent bridges on Stadium Boulevard (east-west) near State Street (north-south). One of the bridges spans State Street, while the other spans the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks (north-south). The specific bridge in question is the structure spanning State Street.

In late 2007 after a biannual inspection of the bridge, weight limits were reduced on the span. The limits were set as follows:

  • 31 tons (reduced from 38 tons) for one-unit trucks (e.g., school or AATA buses)
  • 39 tons (reduced from 48 tons) for two-unit trucks (e.g., a single-trailer semi)
  • 44 tons (reduced from 54 tons) for three-unit trucks (e.g., a semi with two trailers)

Then in March 2008, a new round of weight reductions was triggered as the result of reports at the very end of 2007 (Dec. 29, 2007) of “medium-sized pieces of concrete” falling off one of the 16 pre-stressed concrete box beams supporting the roadway. Re-inspection by city staff and bridge engineering consultants in early January 2008 led to the short-term recommendation of a traffic control order further reducing weight limits:

  • 19 tons for one-unit trucks (e.g., school or AATA buses)
  • 24 tons for two-unit trucks (e.g., a single-trailer semi)
  • 26 tons for three-unit trucks (e.g., a semi with two trailers)

In early February of this year (2009), the engineering consultant for the bridge, Northwest Consultants Inc., was called back to re-examine the bridge, after having conducted an inspection on Oct. 22, 2008. The reason for re-inspection was a concern by city of Ann Arbor engineering staff about one beam in particular, which appeared to be sagging. On re-inspection, NCI found that the fifth beam (counting from the south) was in fact sitting 7/8-inch lower than adjacent beams. Writing for NCI in a Feb. 12 memo, Jonathan Drummond gave this assessment:

At that time [October 2008] we did not observe any deflection of this beam relative to the adjacent beams. Thus, I am of the opinion that this is a relatively recent development.

Drummond continues:

The 7/8 inch of additional deflection found on this beam is a significant problem which will require precautionary measures to be taken. Excessive deflection is one of the primary warnings of impending beam failure. Of additional concern is how fast this deflection has developed. If traffic continues to drive over this beam I would expect the deflection to continue to grow, eventually leading to beam failure. Therefore, my recommendation to you is that traffic be removed from over top of this beam.

Beginning Feb. 23, 2009, the lanes over the bridges were scheduled to be reconfigured to conduct traffic over the northern portion of the bridge, which is not supported by the deflecting fifth beam. The result of that reconfiguration now leaves two lanes open over the bridge, one in each direction.

It’s worth noting that in contrast to the previous traffic control orders (weight reductions), which did not target any particular part of the bridge, the reduction to two lanes addresses a weakness stemming from the fifth beam in particular.

At the Feb. 1, 2009 city council caucus, Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) expressed her frustration that the Stadium bridge project had not been a part of the stimulus package wish list submitted by the city of Ann Arbor – because the design had not been done and was not “shovel ready.”

Here’s some background on the design process. During the fall of 2007, informational workshops had been held on a comprehensive project to address replacement of the span over State Street as well as the one over the railroad, including non-motorized improvements (i.e., sidewalks) extending along Stadium Boulevard to Main Street and south along Main to Scio Church road. Those workshops were held on Sept. 18, 2007 and Oct. 2, 2007 at Pioneer High School’s cafeteria.  They were well attended, especially by members of the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club, who were concerned that the proposed non-motorized improvements would have a negative impact on the course, which is nestled fairly tightly into the area on the southeast corner of the Stadium Boulevard and Main Street, across from Pioneer High School.

By early March 2008, the vision for the comprehensive renovation had met with a funding setback. The Michigan Department of Transportation awarded only $760,000 for the project, though the total cost was estimated at that time at around $35 million.

What happened to design work? In a Feb. 26, 2008 memo from Michael Nearing, senior project manager for the city of Ann Arbor’s project management unit, to Homayoon Pirooz, a manager in the same unit, indicates that the design work stalled for failure of Ward 4 councilmembers (Marcia Higgins and Margie Teall) to nominate a citizens advisory committee:

We have not [been] able to move forward on the preliminary design of the bridge over S. State Street or the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks because we are waiting for the 4th Ward City Council members to nominate and confirm a Citizens Advisory Committee to assist us with the public engagement process. It has been our experience with projects of this nature that it is important to consider and review all aspects of the proposed design with the citizens in order to make sure the project that we deliver meets community expectations.

In the short term, a replacement beam has been ordered, with repair work expected to cost around $500,000. The design work, which is now being done for the bridge, would cost around $1 million, Hieftje said at caucus.

Caucus Discussion: Initial conversation on the  Stadium Boulevard bridge among residents and councilmembers  focused on funding and priorities. What is it, asked one woman, that is taking budget money away from this project and does not allow us to proceed? Why is council distracted from priorities about infrastructure by other considerations, like the graffiti ordinance?

With respect to this first issue, Briere clarified that the reason that the project lacked funds was not that the city had decided to spend it on something else, but rather that the hoped-for state and federal support for the project had not materialized at the levels required to proceed. As for the second issue of priorities, Briere said that it wasn’t accurate to say the bridge replacement wasn’t a priority, noting that when she ran for council in 2007, the need to replace the bridge was on everyone’s list.

As a followup to the funding question, the question was asked: Why not simply issue a bond? Hohnke explained that normally the city would receive significant state and federal support, so the hope was to avoid having the city shoulder the entire financial burden (by issuing a bond). Added Hieftje: “I don’t know of a local government who would do it without state and federal assistance.”

Hieftje also offered the view that with recent developments regarding the beam, the project was more likely than before to be funded, noting that it was still not ranked as a “critical” bridge project. He said that money was being pursued in other ways, via federal earmarks through the offices of Mark Schauer (U.S. Congress 7th District) and John Dingell (U.S. Congress 15th District), saying that he’d had dinner with Dingell a week ago Friday, and that he felt it wouldn’t be surprising for the money for the project to be available very shortly.

Replying to Hieftje’s remark that the bridge was not ranked as “critical,” a resident pointed out that on a 0-100 scale of bridge safety, the Stadium bridge scored a 21, which was the same score the bridge in St. Paul had when it collapsed in August of 2007: “If it kills a couple of people, that’s a big deal.” Hieftje confirmed the bridge’s score of 21 on the 100-point scale, but stressed that the situation was being monitored closely by city engineering staff every few days, and that they would simply shut down the bridge if there was any doubt as to its safety.

Someone mooted the alternative of taking down both bridges to establish an at-grade crossing of Stadium Boulevard by the railroad and State Street. Briere said the way she thought about that possibility was this: The traffic when a train comes through would back up past Main Street. A non-starter.

The idea was floated of leveraging the University of Michigan’s interest in seeing the east-west connection remain free-flowing for football games. Hieftje’s attempt at humor (“At 8 in the morning of a 1 o’clock game, we’ll have to shut the bridge down.”) was met with silence and had to be labeled as a joke. Hiefte allowed that discussions with the university were “an angle that may well come up.” Write your regents, he suggested.

Responding to a question by The Chronicle about a mention by Hieftje of using the street millage to pay for the $500,000 repair, Hieftje said that if the street millage could not be used, then there was money in the general fund that could be tapped. The Chronicle’s question stemmed from the fact that while the street millage can be used to repair and maintain streets, this particular “street” is actually a bridge.

Queried by The Chronicle, Hieftje responded to Higgins’ expressed disappointment at caucus that a basic bridge had not already been designed by saying that for these types of projects, the investment in design work (in this case around $1 million) was not made until a funding source had been identified.

In what Briere described as “a provocative thought,” one resident suggested that the current reduction over the bridge to two lanes offered an opportunity to examine the actual impact of that scenario, if it were to be pursued long term. In light of increasing costs for asphalt and maintenance of structures like bridges, the idea was to explore rebuilding the bridge permanently as two lanes. Though seemingly intrigued by the notion, Briere noted that the Pauline-to-Main section of Stadium was due for reconstruction starting this season, and that it called for four lanes. So she wondered about the impact of reducing the width from four down to two lanes. The idea for a permanent reduction of the bridge to two lanes was articulated further to include a “road diet” for Stadium Boulevard, taking it down to three lanes.

On the subject of making the bridge permanently two lanes, one resident offered her perspective as a bus driver, saying that even with its four lane configuration, she wondered if she should hit the embankment or the next car.

[Editor's note: More photos of the Stadium Boulevard bridge are posted at the end of this article.]


The Ann Arbor planning commission began deliberations at its last meeting on the A2D2 rezoning package for downtown Ann Arbor.  They did not finish before adjourning. (See previous Chronicle coverage of A2D2 for additional background.) In broad strokes, the new zoning for downtown would create a D-1 district for core downtown with a D-2 district acting as a transition to residential neighborhoods. There would be no height limits in D-1 generally. D-2, on the other hand, would include height limits.

The focus of the height-limit discussion to date has centered on the South University Avenue area, where the 601 S. Forest project provoked controversy when first proposed as a 20+ story building. In the end, the project height had been reduced to around 160 feet.

For the A2D2 rezoning, the South University area had been assigned a special version of D-1 – one that includes height limits. At its initial meeting on the A2D2 package last month, planning commission passed (with some dissent) an amendment that raised the initially proposed D-1 height limit for the South University area from 120 feet to 170 feet, with the idea that it would make 601 S. Forest conform to the new zoning.

At Sunday’s caucus, one resident complained that she’d missed that one meeting and was surprised that the height limit was being raised. Having participated in the public process on the rezoning project over a couple of years, she said that she wondered if it was even worth it.

Hieftje  encouraged her to continue to stay involved in the process and assured her that the whole A2D2 zoning package would “land in our laps” at city council. He said that on one occasion he had once been the only member of council to vote for height limits – something Hieftje frequently says when the topic of downtown development comes up. Now, he allowed, there might be others on council who would also support height limits.

Planning commission will resume its A2D2 deliberations  on Tuesday, March 3.

DDA-City Relationship

Planning commission also came up in the context of a conversational thread on the relationship of the city of Ann Arbor to the Downtown Development Authority. As far as being “a part of the city of Ann Arbor,” Hieftje said the DDA was “no different from planning commission except that they had their own funding stream” – the tax increment financing (TIF) district.

The conversation was prompted by a request from citizens at caucus for Hieftje to respond to Sunday’s Ann Arbor News editorial on the use of parking revenue collected by the DDA to shore up the city’s general fund. The concluding paragraph from that editorial reads:

The DDA doesn’t need further rate hikes because its costs are going up, or because it’s mismanaging its money, or anything like that. The DDA needs more money because the council keeps taking it, and it would be nice if the council came out and said so.

Previous Chronicle coverage on the issue can be found in our account of the most recent DDA operations committee meeting. In broad strokes, city council has recently asked the DDA to (i) open discussions on revising the current  parking agreement (projected to result in a $2 million transfer from the DDA to the city), and (ii) to put forward a plan to raise revenues to maintain adequate reserves in DDA fund balances.

Hieftje’s response was to say that he saw the editorial as demonstrating that the News’ memory of recent history is not as strong as it might be. He then traced back the past renegotiation of the parking agreement and the decision by the city to allow the DDA to collect revenues from metered parking.

The city went back to renegotiate that agreement in 2005, Hieftje said, because the city provides a disproportionate amount of city services to the DDA area – citing police calls at 2 a.m. as an example. The DDA is a creation of the city, continued Hieftje, and the city could end the DDA tomorrow night with 6 votes of council, if it wanted to. Hieftje then said he hadn’t read the editorial.

The Chronicle asked Hieftje what point specifically Hieftje thought qualified as the News not having an adequate memory of recent history – given that he had not read the piece. Hieftje replied that he’d been told about the editorial, and that to him the key fact that went missing was that the city had elected to allow the DDA to retain revenue from metered parking.

The Chronicle followed up by asking Hieftje if the city’s current initiative to open the parking agreement negotiations again represented a philosophical change from the tenet that parking should pay for itself, but also no more than itself.  We drew an analogy to the storm water fee, which is supposed to pay for the maintenance of the stormwater system, but is not supposed to generate gratuitous fund balances that can be used on non-stormwater projects. Hieftje said that already in 2005 (when the city negotiated for $10 million to be transferred from the DDA over the course of 10 years) there was a philosophy in place that would allow for parking revenue to fund non-parking needs. And that change in philosophy, Hieftje said, was driven by the fact that the DDA area uses a disproportionately greater amount of city services.

Providing some context on the question of parking revenues and parking system, Hohnke noted that  enabling legislation to create a DDA does not speak to parking, but only to TIF.

Residents urged Hieftje to write a letter to the editor in response to the News editorial. However, Briere clarified that by policy, the Ann Arbor News did not publish op-ed pieces by elected officials, because the paper felt that officials had an adequate forum to express their views in virtue of their elected office. At that, residents suggested that Hieftje use his time during the “communications” portion of council meetings to address the content of the editorial.

Exposed Strands Stadium Bridge

Exposed pre-stressing strands on the underside of the Stadium Boulevard bridge.

Exposed Strands Stadium Bridge

More exposed pre-stressing strands on the underside of the Stadium Boulevard bridge.

Stadium Bridge Weight Limit Sign

Current weight limits on the Stadium Boulevard bridge over State Street in Ann Arbor.

Stadium Bridge Down to One Lane

Sign indicating imminent lane reduction. That reduction to two lanes (one in each direction) is now in place.

How to Fix a Bridge

Engineer's sketch of the needed lane configuration. (image links to higher resolution file)


  1. By Karen Sidney
    March 2, 2009 at 12:49 pm | permalink

    When voters were asked to re-authorize the 2 mil streets millage tax in November 2006, no distinction was made between streets and bridges. The millage fact sheet stated:

    “For nearly 25 years, the City has used street reconstruction millage dollars, augmented with matching funds from federal and state grants, as the principal funding source for resurfacing and reconstruction of City streets and bridges.”

    According to the latest city audit, there was $22 million in the streets millage fund on June 30, 2008. Either that money is available to pay to reconstruct this failing bridge or the city misled voters.

    Claiming there is no money to replace the bridge because state and federal funding has dried up is not a valid excuse when the city is sitting on $22 million in the streets fund. While it would be nice to get someone else to pay part of the bill, lack of outside funding is not an excuse to let the bridge fall down.

  2. By Anna Ercoli Schnitzer
    March 2, 2009 at 1:43 pm | permalink

    This is a perfect example of “Be careful what you wish for,” isn’t it? (Just yesterday, I wrote in to ask someone in-the-know to inform us citizens about the East Stadium bridge(s) situation. More seriously, though, copious thanks for another superlative reporting effort, complete with relevant and revealing photos.

  3. By Steve Bean
    March 2, 2009 at 1:44 pm | permalink

    Briere acknowledged the existence of those funds and pointed out that spending all of them (and then some–at least $13 million more) on the bridges would make them unavailable for all the other road repair needs around the city.

  4. By Alan Pagliere
    March 2, 2009 at 4:33 pm | permalink

    The full content of the February 26, 2008 memo from Michael G. Nearing, P.E., Senior Project Manager, Project Management Unit to Homayoon Pirooz, P.E., Manager, Project Management Unit about the condition of the E. Stadium Boulevard over S. State Street in Ann Arbor can be found with the 2/11/2009 post here.

  5. By Karen Sidney
    March 2, 2009 at 5:56 pm | permalink

    On 6/30/02 there was 13.6 million in the streets millage fund. On 6/30/08 there was 22.7 million, a 9.1 million increase. That means that in the last 6 years the city did not spend all the money (mostly taxes) that came into this fund. I don’t think spending some of the reserve for a failing bridge will have much impact on other planned road projects. The city can also tap the major streets fund which had $7.8 million on 6/30/08. Most of the money in the major streets fund comes from state gas and weight tax money.

    The latest capital improvements plan figures show the city expected about $10 million in outside funding for the two bridges so if the city had to pick up the full bill, it would mean using up about half the reserve. That would still leave a reserve equal to about 100% of annual streets millage fund spending.

  6. By Kris
    March 2, 2009 at 9:22 pm | permalink

    What a joke, the City Council is excited about a new City Hall and likes discussion of a new library but seems to be sitting on their hands when it comes to an essential safety item such as a failing bridge!

    Why does the City maintain such a high streets reserve? What are the plans to spend this money? I’m beginning to feel I’m taxed so the City can make interest off my money!

  7. By mr dairy
    March 3, 2009 at 12:37 am | permalink

    Does the Chronicle have a policy prohibiting Op ed pieces by elected officials? I’d like to read what Hieftje is willing to put in writing.

  8. By Alan Goldsmith
    March 3, 2009 at 9:08 am | permalink

    Maybe if we hire a German artist and spend $750K we could have some sort of waterfall art project approved without a public vote and somehow have a bridge worked into the deal. Failing that, let’s tear down the bridge, make it a one lane one way route and save even more money.

    Or better yet, defeat the next road mileage tax proposal because the money isn’t being spent like it should.

  9. March 3, 2009 at 10:09 am | permalink

    Ah, we’re pursuing earmarks. Back in the 1990′s, I spent several years working for an organization ( that was initially funded by an earmark by the late Congressman Bob Traxler (D-Saginaw). From the reaction of the bureaucratic and science communities, you’d have thought we were the devil incarnate. Now earmarks are standard stuff.

    Although I can see why bureaucracies and experts hate them, the power to earmark is plainly given to Congress by the Constitution.

  10. March 3, 2009 at 10:12 am | permalink

    As for the bridge, there does seem to be a lot of brain-dead thinking that fails to appreciate the urgency of fixing this already dangerously narrow structure that has a safety rating equivalent to the failed St. Paul bridge, supports one of 2 (two) major west-east arteries in our geographically constricted city and is directly adjacent to a football stadium with a capacity of 107,000+. Hmm… should we dawdle?

  11. By LauraB
    March 3, 2009 at 10:52 am | permalink

    Paying for a bridge with local money would be a big mistake. Why spend local dollars on something that has always been and will again be funded by the state/federal government to the tune of 95%.

    What is happening is not unusual. It is going on in towns across the country. Bridge projects are being put off until federal funds arrive.

    The Broadway Bridge was no less important. For several years they had to put up steel nets to catch the falling cement, the beams were just as bad and yet the city put off replacing it until state/federal funds were available. And, that was back in a time when governments were flush with funds.

    It sounds like they are keeping a close watch on the bridge so safety is not an issue. They will have to shut it down for a long time to fix it and if it is shut down a little longer, so what? This is not a big deal.

  12. By Alan Goldsmith
    March 3, 2009 at 12:29 pm | permalink

    Yes it IS a big deal. The bridge is a mess, it’s dangerous and we have road funds available to get the project rolling. Though I’m confused about how the 4th Ward Democrats added to the delay and would appreciate having that piece of the puzzle explained a bit better. The City can move quickly on other projects so let’s not put up “nets” to catch the falling pieces.

  13. By Steve Bean
    March 3, 2009 at 1:59 pm | permalink

    “The bridge is dangerous.” Is that true? What’s dangerous about it?

  14. By Karen Sidney
    March 3, 2009 at 2:09 pm | permalink

    According to the 2004-2009 capital improvements plan, the broadway bridge cost $31.2 million with $18.08 (58%) coming from state and federal funds. The draft 2010-2015 capital improvements plan for the two stadium bridges shows total cost of about $20 million, with about $10 million coming from state and federal funds. I’m not sure where the 95% outside funding figure comes from unless it is what happened a very long time ago.

  15. By LauraB
    March 3, 2009 at 4:24 pm | permalink

    Thank you for the Broadway Bridge numbers Karen. The 95% is from Judy McGovern’s article today.

    Alan: I guess we will just have to disagree. I see the Stadium Bridges situation as being very comparable to the Broadway Bridges

    My point remains: Why spend millions more in local dollars when state/federal dollars will be coming. The road funds currently in hand should be spent to repair the roads after two very bad winters.

    The bridge project looks like a perfect candidate for federal funding, especially with the new emphasis on infrastructure repair. Maybe they should shut down the whole bridge to make it more “critical.”

    Safety: In the presentation by Susan McCormick last night it was apparent that the bridge is being closely monitored. That is why they shut down two lanes, if needed they will close it until the new beam arrives. It is being “fabricated.”

  16. March 3, 2009 at 5:03 pm | permalink

    Steve — what is dangerous about the bridge, right now, is that the traffic lanes are quite a bit narrower on the bridge than on the entrance and exits. This forces a, what else, dangerous semi-merge as (overly wide modern American gas guzzlers) try to go shoulder to shoulder over a 1940′s? era bridge.

    If this driving experience issue doesn’t bother you, rest assured, it does bother others — my 17-year-old daughter, a new driver, hates it, and Ann Arbor is a town that is full of 40,000 inexperienced student drivers plus a substantial number of people who did not grow up driving on US roads.

    Laurab, there is something that bothers me about the strategy of leaving decrepit bridges to get more and more decrepit on the confident assumption that the Feds and the state will come along to help us out.

    For one thing, for a few years after GM files for prepackaged bankruptcy, the state of Michigan isn’t going to be helping anyone; and it may be a bit cavalier to assume that extra stimulus funds from the Feds will automatically be there in years 2, 3, and 4 of the recession.

    For another thing, why aren’t we hearing from the people who are always saying “buy local”? What happened to sturdy self-reliance? Ann Arbor can afford to fix the bridge without procrastinating, why not do so and spare the funds for some place that needs them more.

  17. By LauraB
    March 3, 2009 at 6:26 pm | permalink

    The city should wait for federal funds so they can fix all the other roads for which federal funds will not be available.

    In a few months they can do the patch it will last another few years if it takes that long.

    If they spend all of it on the Stadium Bridges, the other roads will only get worse.

    Again, this situation is no different than the Broadway Bridges and the strategy is the same as it was back in the 90′s.

  18. March 3, 2009 at 8:35 pm | permalink

    Fred – the bridge design is late 20s era (1927, I think), and the deck was replaced in 1975. It was built when that road carried M-17 which was a major east-west state route.

    I walked (carefully) under the bridge today, and noticed the general sense of decrepitude – there are several piles of gravel on the narrow pedestrian sidewalk that clearly came from bridge crumblies.

    There are U of M projects like this one from UMTRI to monitor bridge deterioration with various bits of high-tech materials and equipment.

  19. March 3, 2009 at 9:12 pm | permalink

    LauraB, out of curiosity, what was so great about the way the city handled the Broadway bridges problem? I remember a deteriorating bridge followed by an extremely long construction period.

  20. By Steve Bean
    March 3, 2009 at 9:33 pm | permalink

    Sounds to me like the drivers are dangerous, Fred, not the bridge. :-)

    I walked over it tonight at about 5:45 and again at 8:00. The signage appears sufficient and there are barrels and other markers between the lanes. I did see one driver fretting over the merging process (which might have delayed his trip by a second or two.) Drivers can slow below the speed limit if that would make them feel safer.

  21. By Kris
    March 4, 2009 at 8:53 am | permalink

    I can’t believe the attitude of “let it crumble until someone else pays for it” while A2 is having millage dollars sitting in a bank account! It is obvious from the condition of the roads around Ann Arbor (Stadium at Pauline and Miller from Maple to Downtown) that Ann Arbor has no interest in spending the millage dollars on the upkeep required to keep our infrastructure from failing!!!

    People need to realize that concrete beams do not deflect permanently in normal operation, this is a sign of failure. The fact that it’s being tracked will simply help to tell us how fast the failure is progressing. Having to narrow a major artery without a plan to implement fixes is a joke.

  22. March 4, 2009 at 9:20 am | permalink

    The West Stadium/Pauline intersection is scheduled to be reconstructed this summer. In the summer of 2010 the plan is to extend the reconstruction of West Stadium all the way to S. Seventh. (Notice that I wrote “reconstructed” not “repaved”. There’s a big difference.)


  23. March 4, 2009 at 9:50 am | permalink

    Steve: it’s pretty damn obvious to any thinking person that the lanes on the bridge even before the signage were too narrow and inconsistent with current car sizes. Why don’t you just come out and say that you don’t want to spend any money on improving things for drivers and big cars?

    I don’t have a problem with that view, it’s perfectly logical given your premises — but I don’t like it when you and others reflexively minimize obviously legitimate concerns because of your broader agenda. You’re not going to get anywhere selling sustainability that way.

  24. By Steve Bean
    March 4, 2009 at 11:12 am | permalink

    “Why don’t you just come out and say that you don’t want to spend any money on improving things for drivers and big cars?”

    Because that wouldn’t be true. Or pertinent. This isn’t about personal preferences, it’s about public policy. Do you agree?

    “I don’t have a problem with that view, it’s perfectly logical given your premises — but I don’t like it when you and others reflexively minimize obviously legitimate concerns because of your broader agenda.”

    Please don’t misrepresent my comments or presume to know my reasons for them. If you want to know something about them, please ask, and I’ll give an honest answer. But feel free to not like it. :-)

    This all started with the safety of the bridge structure being called into question. I just asked if it is true that the bridge is unsafe. Is it really, or does it just feel that way?

    If you truly believe that the lanes are too narrow, Fred, to the point that they’re unsafe, I suggest that you communicate that directly to someone who can do something about it. They may ask the same questions, though, “How is it unsafe? What’s the evidence?”, which is why I posed it here.

    Kris, there is a plan to implement fixes. What’s behind the multiple exclamation points? What is it that you’re angry about or fear might happen?

  25. March 4, 2009 at 12:46 pm | permalink

    Steve, all of us are perfectly entitled to observe others’ social behavior, draw inferences from it, and comment. We are all wired to be social beings. That’s what this is all about: we’re chimps with computers!

    So I stand by my social assessment that many people on this board (including you, and certainly myself) tend to minimize concerns that don’t fit with their views–and we do so more often when the concerns don’t fit with our agenda.

    the rhetorical device of asking probing questions about need comes up a lot here and at arborupdate, and while I understand the appeal of carrying out that sort of analysis, sometimes it is just silly. I don’t need to do a big study, and you don’t really need to ask probing questions, to be pretty darned confident that overly narrow merging lanes and a high number of student and inexperienced drivers are going to correlate well with an increased rate of accidents.

    (Fortunately, they are likely to be less minor, as this is sort of like a straight-line roundabout, which drastically reduces fatalities because of reducing t-bone acccidents).

    So Steve, what is your agenda for bridge safety? Can we agree that all bridges in the city should be brought up to an independent standard of bridge and traffic safety? Can we agree on a schedule that correlates levels of impairment with maximum time until a fix?

  26. March 4, 2009 at 1:29 pm | permalink

    There are additional things that could be done to make traffic flow better at that intersection. S. Industrial has two lanes turning left onto westbound Stadium at that intersection, and if the middle lane of that intersection were blocked off there would be less confusion as cars would not have to merge before the bridge.

  27. By Steve Bean
    March 4, 2009 at 5:05 pm | permalink

    “So Steve, what is your agenda for bridge safety?”

    I don’t have one.

    If we don’t agree that your perception of the situation (overly narrow lanes, high number of inexperienced drivers more likely to have some kind of collision, dangerous merge) matches reality–and we don’t, then I doubt that we’ll be able to agree on any of those other questions, Fred.

    I like Ed’s approach of looking for ways that might quickly and easily improve the current situation in this particular location. Improving the traffic flow might also increase the perceived safety of the roadway over the bridges.

  28. By Vivienne Armentrout
    March 4, 2009 at 5:13 pm | permalink

    For now, I’m finding ways to avoid using this bridge. Hint: using Packard to go E/W by picking it up via any number of cross-streets gets you to Stadium on the other side of the bridge, if traveling E. If connecting with S. Industrial, use Park/Golden, both accessible at the intersection with Stadium on the E side of the bridge.

    Its dangerous condition doesn’t appear controversial to me.

  29. By Steve Bean
    March 5, 2009 at 10:27 am | permalink

    I finally realized what the distinction is that I’ve been looking for. It’s between “dangerousness” and “greater risk”. The bridge (bridges, really) isn’t dangerous, though there are slightly greater risks involved in driving over or under it.

    If it were truly dangerous I’m certain that responsible people like those who have commented here would be doing something to get it closed immediately in order to protect the public, including themselves and their children.

  30. By Dave Askins
    March 7, 2009 at 7:25 pm | permalink

    mr. dairy asks: “Does the Chronicle have a policy prohibiting Op ed pieces by elected officials?”

    We do not have such a policy. Op-ed pieces submitted by elected officials are reviewed for possible publication without regard their elected status. That is to say, we are neither more inclined nor less inclined to publish an op-ed piece based on the fact that the writer is an elected official.

    One of the considerations given to a submission by any writer is this: Does the community’s interest in the content outweigh the writer’s possible self-interest in writing? Are there writers with competing interests to whom we should think about extending an invitation to write something on the same topic?