Sunday, August 31, 2008

New MD Bay Bridge Needed


National Capital to the Ocean needs an elegant & efficient bridge - P3 potential (EDITORIAL) Posted Fri, 2008-08-29 17:10

EDITORIAL: America's national capital region with a population of over 7.5 million people needs an elegant and efficient bridge on the way to the Atlantic coast. The existing pair of troubled, obsolete and ugly spans called the Chesapeake Bay Bridge need to be phased out, and a modern bridge put in their place.

On the existing decrepit spans there's always some huge disruption. In 2005 it was a deck repaving project that was botched and required months of lane closures. In 2007 it was a spectacular collision after a trailer came unhitched during two-way operations on the 3 lane span, killing several people and stopping traffic for more than a day. This year it's a fall-asleep driver wandering into the path of a tractor-trailer - also in unprotected two-way operations - which instead of being contained by the heavy concrete parapets effortlessly punched through and ended up in the Bay, the driver killed of course.

This Labor Day weekend and for perhaps another ten weeks only a single lane of the southern span will be in operation. After the latest fiasco they discovered corrosion in the steel bolts which hold the parapets to the deck - a 1980s add-on gone awry. Emergency repairs will occupy a lane around the clock.

It will be a maximum 2 lanes open per direction on a 3+3 lane road on either side.
Smaller incidents create less dramatic delays every few weeks.

The present spans are an operational nightmare.

The operational problems of the spans derive from:

- their incompatibility with the approach highways on either side 3+ 3 lanes going into 3+2 bridge lanes

- the lack of deck space on both spans for a central median barrier let alone for breakdown lanes and workzones

- steep grades up from the shallow water structures to the shipping channel spans

- the age of the spans especially the southern span, 56 years old, designed to much lower than current weight loadings and traffic densities

Without providing for greater traffic volumes than now the new Bay Bridge needs to have deck sufficient for:

- three travel lanes each direction to match the approach highways on either side

- sufficient spare space on either side of the travel lanes for broken down vehicles and work space

- a configuration that allows for two-way traffic on either side of a moveable/temporary barrier

Ideally there should be a sufficiently gentle vertical profile to the new bridge to allow heavy trucks to maintain speed on the upgrade but otherwise the deck needs to provide for an extra climbing lane on the upgrades.

About 138 feet (42m) of deck in total or 69ft (21m) each direction is needed to satisfy these requirements, which are normal on new interstate standard construction.

69ft (21m) allows for:

- 3x12ft (3.66m) fullsize travel lanes and 16.5ft (5m) each side for breakdown and work space, and space for runners & cyclists' lanes

- 4x12ft (3.66m) fullsize travel lanes plus 10.5ft (3.23m) each side for breakdown and work space, if the approach highways either side should be 4th-laned

- 6x11ft (3.4m) tight travel lanes plus 2ft (0.6m) central barrier for temporary or emergency 3+3 lane operations if the other direction was out of action

The 69ft (21m) each direction compares with:

- the 1952 southern span 2-lane deck of 28ft (8.5m)

- the 1973 northern span 3-lane deck of 38ft (11.6m)

The present deficient pair of spans provide 66ft (20.1m) total deck width compared to a needed 138ft (42m).

In an area that hurricanes very occasionally reach, and in an age of terrorism our new ideal Bay Bridge should probably built as twin spans - identical twins for esthetics.


The first new span is needed on the southern side to provide a regular 3 lanes eastbound. This would allow the 1952 span to be retired from regular use. It could be kept for occasional use or for regular use by bike riders until it needed to be removed to make way for the second new-span.

The project is not especially challenging in engineering terms. The sea floor is similar in profile to the sea floor under the east span portion of San Francisco Bay Bridge - minus the severe earthquake dangers. The two bridges are similar in total length.


The Maryland establishment - the Transportation Authority, legislators of both political parties, the governor and former governors, the Baltimore Sun - all say a new span is unaffordable.

It's one of the most affluent metro areas in the world and it can't afford a modern, comfortable road to its coastal playgrounds? This is preposterous.

What they mean is a new Bay Bridge can't be accommodated within the budgets and ways of doing things at state agencies.

The state toll authority MdTA doesn't want to take it on.

It's probably best that they don't. They have some big new projects on the go already - ICC and I-95 HOT lanes north of the Baltimore tunnels. Their management of the Bay Bridge has been so consistently awful a great cheer would go up on both sides of the Bay if the bridge was taken away from the MdTA.

The new Bay Bridge will almost certainly be a self-financing toll project.

There's an easy way to find out.

Set up a process to find out from investors what they'll fund in return for the right to toll. It's a perfect P3 or concession project.

Finally the existing spans are an esthetic atrocity that mar the beauty of the Bay with their trashy complexity and their jarring lines, so out of respect for the beautiful Bay we should be looking for ways to be rid of them while building a functional substitute.

(SOURCE: Data here mostly from Bay Bridge Transportation Needs Report, Maryland Transportation Authority, December 2004, which is a useful source of carefully assembled data but like every MdTA study on the Bridge wimps out when it gets to recommending needed improvements.)

TOLLROADSnews 2008-08-29

Thursday, August 28, 2008

U.S. 3rd World Country


As I sat in my seat at the Bird’s Nest, watching thousands of Chinese dancers, drummers, singers and acrobats on stilts perform their magic at the closing ceremony, I couldn’t help but reflect on how China and America have spent the last seven years: China has been preparing for the Olympics; we’ve been preparing for Al Qaeda. They’ve been building better stadiums, subways, airports, roads and parks. And we’ve been building better metal detectors, armored Humvees and pilotless drones.

The difference is starting to show. Just compare arriving at La Guardia’s dumpy terminal in New York City and driving through the crumbling infrastructure into Manhattan with arriving at Shanghai’s sleek airport and taking the 220-mile-per-hour magnetic levitation train, which uses electromagnetic propulsion instead of steel wheels and tracks, to get to town in a blink.

Then ask yourself: Who is living in the third world country?

Yes, if you drive an hour out of Beijing, you meet the vast dirt-poor third world of China. But here’s what’s new: The rich parts of China, the modern parts of Beijing or Shanghai or Dalian, are now more state of the art than rich America. The buildings are architecturally more interesting, the wireless networks more sophisticated, the roads and trains more efficient and nicer. And, I repeat, they did not get all this by discovering oil. They got it by digging inside themselves.

I realize the differences: We were attacked on 9/11; they were not. We have real enemies; theirs are small and mostly domestic. We had to respond to 9/11 at least by eliminating the Al Qaeda base in Afghanistan and investing in tighter homeland security. They could avoid foreign entanglements. Trying to build democracy in Iraq, though, which I supported, was a war of choice and is unlikely to ever produce anything equal to its huge price tag.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Washington, D.C. I-395 Gateway Chock

Sole remaining sliver of land alongside New York Avenue for I-395 tunnel extension to get new buildings via development company whose managing principal got his B.S. in Civil Engineering Degree from Notre Dame University.

More on this planning travesty at the full article at "A Trip Within The Beltway":

Robert J. Murphy

Number "17"
Blocks the valuable O Street axis

Also helps keep DC NE divided by rail by complicating the lowering/covering of the divisive surface railroad this complex would be mere feet away from.
Robert J. Murphy
Managing Principal

Bob Murphy, a founding principal of MRP Realty, has been a leader in the Washington real estate community for nearly two decades. Prior to forming MRP, Bob served as area president for Trammell Crow Company’s development and investment activities in the mid-Atlantic region. During his tenure with Trammell Crow Company, his team was the company’s most active and profitable development operation, developing more than twelve million square feet of space.

Bob has served as chairman of the Northern Virginia chapter of NAIOP; and as a member of the D.C. Central Business BID, the Mount Vernon Triangle CID, and the Urban Land Institute District Council. He holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA in Real Estate Finance from the Columbia University School of Business.

Apparantly, the University of Notre Dame has a new medievalist civil engineering program that teaches the chocking of valuable transport corridors without regard to the increase on costs-complexities of constructing much needed highway evacuation routes.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Blood on their Hands- the doctrinaire anti freeway movement

In a message dated 8/8/2008 2:00:17 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, myz7@comcast. net writes:

The 2006 data by state is at
http://www.fhwa. ohim/hs06/ pdf/fi20. pdf

I have always stressed to the anti-freeway people that, by forbidding freeways, they are increasing fatalities. When existing freeway capacity is reached, drivers shift to parallel arterials and, then, neighborhood streets to find a less congested route. That makes the more dangerous roads more dangerous for autos, bikes and pedestrians.


Thanks, Mel,

Your point on building or widening freeways is quite valid.

What Lave/Elias showed in 1987, and was again showed after 1995, was that posting the proper speed limits on the freeways helps divert more traffic to them and off the more dangerous surface highways and arterials, with statewide safety gains.

If a freeway is posted at 65 (likely below the 30th percentile speed) and a roughly parallel surface highway is posted at 55, there is much less incentive to divert to the freeway. The freeway, in most places, should be posted at 75, 80 or 85 to reflect actual 85th percentile speeds (depending on the area) and a much greater proportion of drivers would divert if they could legally save the larger amount of time the higher limit permits.


Jim Walker

So much for our jesuitical "environmentalist" and "safety" organizations!