Dependable Erection

Monday, February 18, 2008

Picking nits

Yeah, yeah, i'm on vacation. I'm destressing. But stuff still happens. I'm not talking about Afghanistan, where things seem to be escalating to Iraq 2006 levels. (Not even mentioning that violence in Iraq has been ticking back upward in recent weeks.) I'm not talking about more guys with guns opening fire in classrooms.

What i'm going off on today is two completely unrelated items that crossed my path. I don't have a dog in either fight, as it were. But still.

Up in Maryland, 8 people died while watching a drag race on a public road at 3 in the morning over the weekend. This kind of thing is apparently quite common up there.
Despite complaints, illegal street racers have roared for more than 20 years down the flat, straight stretch of Maryland highway where eight fans were killed this weekend, a community leader said Sunday.

Stan Fetter, president of the Indian Head Highway Area Action Council, blamed a thin police presence in the suburban Washington area for the ongoing problem.

"The police tend to get distracted by things closer to D.C., so no one's ever there," Fetter said. "They tend to forget about it."

Because it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Here's what pisses me off.
Police hope to interview more witnesses and are urging anyone at the scene to come forward. But they are not actively looking for the drivers who were taking part in the illegal race because they were not directly involved in the crash, Prince George's County police Cpl. Arvel Lewis said.

Now that's going to send a message that this kind of thing is not going to be tolerated, right?

Actually, i can think of a couple of reasons why the police might not be "actively looking" for the guys who were behind the wheels, and none of the are flattering.

Meanwhile, down where i'm staying, there's some local controversy involving, of all things, NCDOT and local authorities over the design of a new bridge. The old b ridge is a drawbridge, and there's some controversy over whether it needs to be replaced with a permanent, taller span that would allow boats to pass unimpeded, or if the opening schedule needs to be changed, or perhaps there are even more options on the table.

Again, i don't have sufficient information to have an opinion one way or another. the 10 minutes or so i've had to wait for the drawbridge on this trip hasn't seemed like a big deal, although if i got stuck twice a day i might feel differently. But this passage in a local paper, The Gam, had an eerie sense of familiarity.
Yes, there is an influx of traffic to the courthouse and from people who live in Morehead and other places but work in Beaufort, but certainly not the thousands of cars DOT is trying to portray using the drawbridge on a daily basis. The math was simple enough that this editor had it done before McCune's three minutes were up. . . .

The Gam has requested a number of traffic studies from DOT in an attempt to confirm the 21,000 figure, however DOT is dragging its feet fulfilling the request

Yeah, that rings a bell. Back in 2001, our neighborhood decided to challenge DOT's plan for a right hand turn lane on Roxboro St. southbound from I-85, that would lead onto Knox St. Highway engineers have lots of Uniform Manuals and guides as to when specific traffic functions are warranted, and we wanted to know whether or not this particular lane was. As it turned out, for the approximate amount of traffic on Roxboro (1600 vehicles during peak hour, as i recall, but how i got that figure will be revealed shortly), about 5%, or 80 vehicles per hour, needed to making a right turn to warrant a dedicated lane. When we asked for NCDOT to show their traffic counts, would you believe that the computer which was keeping track of the data malfunctioned, and they had no hard numbers? My own manual count of traffic, made by sitting at the corner for a couple of hours on consecutive weekday mornings, showed fewer than 20 cars out of the 1600 turning right, or about 1/4 of the number needed to warrant a turn lane.

Turns out it does't matter. NCDOT can do what it wants to on local roads that it has control over, regardless of what the numbers show. But it's curious how that works, isn't it? Engineers who live by the manuals and the numbers suddenly unable to come up with that data when it might be a problem.

Oh, well.

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