28 December 2008

Christmas present turned Mardi Gras throw

Times-Picayune - New and improved I-10 is still months away

I wonder who screwed up here. The fix is most certainly not in, unlike most other situations across the lake. In this case, the asphalt wasn't started in time, so now it'll have to wait until after the winter months. Don't know why the hell they couldn't have surfaced it with concrete, but what's done is done, and we'll have to wait a few more months for the Causeway Blvd. chokepoint.

Rebuilding and redesigning the interchange between I-10 and Causeway is the next step in the process to upgrade I-10 to more modern standards and capacity. Yay.

Speaking of Causeway... bonus coverage!

Times-Picayune - Causeway storm-surge fix poses challenge for Corps of Engineers

Here, the idea is to raise the southern approaches to the Causeway to about 16 feet or so, as part of the ongoing project to strengthen the area's protection against storm surge, in this case by raising the levees. The trick is, the approaches kind of suck as it is, considering all the traffic that uses the bridge on a daily basis.

While there is room in the median to move the lanes around, and the existing approaches shouldn't have to be messed with much, it's still going to be the kind of headache that rivals most hangovers.

So far, the project is hopefully able to begin in 2010, sometime between late spring and early winter, but it's not possible to pin a clear date on it do far in advance.

Either of these projects will prove to be a nightmare for traffic for years to come. As always, I suggest going out of the way, mostly because I avoid the Causeway like the plague anyway. 24 miles over water with no shoulders... makes me nervous.

12 December 2008

Another DWI on the Causeway...

Times-Picayune - St. Tammany Parish Councilman booked with DWI on the Causeway

Yep, another politician got busted on the Causeway for driving drunk... and this time, it wasn't Drunk Eddie. Instead, we'll call this one "Drunk Marty" - Councilman Marty Gould of Parish District 5.

Seems he got loaded at the Saints game one Sunday, then decided to drive across the bridge.

Then... (Shock!) the cop pulled him over and actually did his job, writing the esteemed Councilman a ticket on the spot. Unheard of!

I guess some people can learn after all... so for once, kudos to the bridge police.

The sad thing here is how the Councilman responded to all this... his only regret? Getting caught. The classic sign of the unrepentant criminal. So, just like I'm (still) calling for Drunk Eddie to resign (or get indicted), I'm also going to call for Drunk Marty to get the hell out of public office. Never mind the fact that he seemed to be the only one harmed (did he take a header in the Dome to get that cut on his head?), he could have harmed someone else, especially on the Causeway. Personal responsibility dies a little more each time one of these idiots does something stupid like this, and the stupidity needs to end before someone gets killed.

Boredom breeds upd*tes.

First off, until I can catch my site up with my Picasa sets, I've linked all my Picasa sets directly to the blog. You'll find them on the right side.

Second, I found my pics from August 3rd's trip with Froggie, specifically my small LA 3081 and Old US 11 sets.

Third, it snowed yesterday, and i have pictures of the Snow Day as well.

Enjoy. Or don't.

10 December 2008

Not another upd*te?!

Yes, more pics, about 60 of them from a brief jaunt up to Covington. The day was dreary and wintry, so the lighting wasn't the best. Still.

New:
LA 21: Coverage of northbound from the southern end in Madisonville, up to Covington.
LA 25: Small amount of coverage of the southern terminus in Covington.
US 190-X: Business US 190 in Covington, coverage of eastbound along concurrency with LA 21, and from the end of the concurrency east to mainline US 190.

Updated:
LA 22: Expanded coverage of westbound, from West Causeway Approach out to LA 21/1077 in Madisonville.
US 190: Added coverage of eastbound and westbound along the "Bypass" section in Covington, and added one picture of westbound in Mandeville.

05 December 2008

No safety bays for Causeway

NOLA.com - Plan to use twin spans ditched

From article:

"The Causeway Commission has canceled plans to use the Interstate 10 spans that now connect Slidell and eastern New Orleans as material for safety bays along the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway.

The cost to move and house the spans during a lengthy construction is prohibitive, Causeway officials determined."


Ok, so there's that. While using the old Twin Spans to create so-called "safety bays" along the bridge was a noble idea, there's other reasons beside the cost that made using them just on the bare edge of impossible:

"Also, the spans are 40 years old, while cast-in-place construction would be new. The highway department has said vehicles may not travel on the spans in the future, as they were damaged during Hurricane Katrina and are being replaced as a result.

In addition, the spans are 65 feet long, while the Causeway spans are 56 feet long on the southbound bridge and 84 feet long on the northbound bridge. The different span lengths would create uneven joints on the bridge deck -- a minimal difference for low speeds, but a significant one at high speeds should the Causeway ever be widened."


TFA says it better than I could. Still, I don't see why they couldn't take part of the old Spans and turn it into a fishing pier or something, like Florida did with the older Sunshine Skyway. You know, we could actually use a fishing pier down here, considering we're a culture of sportsmen...

As for the safety bay idea, I have a better idea that would be more useful in the long term... actually, two ideas. Three lanes across, and build some shoulders along the entire length of the bridge! As in Interstate-standard shoulders!

04 December 2008

A few more photos

A trip to Slidell today spawned about 40 or so new photos.

New:
LA 434: Coverage of northbound between I-12 and LA 36, as well as some pictures along the concurrency with US 190 in Lacombe.

Updated:
I-10: Added photos from westbound approaching and of the new Exit 265 interchange with US 190 Business in Slidell.
I-12: Added coverage along westbound approaching and of Exit 74 (LA 434).
US 11: Added a couple of photos of the concurrency in Slidell with LA 433.
US 190: Added coverage eastbound through Lacombe and Slidell, as well as at the intersection with hidden LA 1089. Also, I caught a snap of an idiot parked on the train tracks at the intersection with US 11.
LA 433: Added coverage of westbound and northbound from US 11 to US 190, mostly along the Bayou Liberty Road and Thompson Road segments.
LA 1088: Added a couple of photos of westbound, north of I-12.
Former LA 1093-2: Changed directory name to reflect removal of all signage previously found in August.

08 November 2008

Detroit, you must fail for your own good.

GM is close to running out of cash. Ford and Chrysler are failing too. It seems everyone needs a bailout these days.

No.

You will not get my money. For the good of America, you must fail.

Let me elaborate. The domestic auto industry, for years, has failed to listen to the consumer. Instead, they tried to placate us with SUVs and with many unnecessary added features.

I am the consumer you have priced yourselves out of, and I am speaking to you. I do not want or need high-end features. I do not want or need Bluetooth. I do not want or need OnStar. I do not want or need DVD players. I do not want or need a stereo system with too much power. I do not want or need a hard drive in my car. What I want is a tape deck.

Did you hear me, Detroit? I want a fucking tape deck. That's all. I want something basic. Five on the floor, the barest essentials, good mileage and a tape deck, just like we had back in 1995. So do many consumers. You cannot survive by appealing to the 1%'ers, you need to appeal to the everyman, the person who's supporting your competition because they cannot afford you. I know damn well you can make what we want, but you need to let us know you are doing so as well. Drop the damned Cadillac and Lincoln commercials with the fancy CGI, lighting, music and such and give us the basics! The rich don't fucking need to be advertised to to find that bloated thing in the back of the lot with all the features that costs more than most third-world countries will ever have to spend.

We can also spread the wealth this way, since some people do want the features. They may even be willing to pay for them. Of course, people could buy a standalone upgrade, then pay someone to put it in for them! I'm sure it's a foreign concept to most people who expect to have everything and have it now, but it would be spreading the wealth, in a capitalist manner! Hell, if you want some more of that wealth, do the same.

So one thing that would help is to get rid of the built-in bullshit we don't need and go back to buying a basic car, then adding things after the fact. You know, a modular system?

You also need to trim the fat, Detroit. Those glitzy new-model rollouts? Wave bye-bye. You need to get rid of them. You also seriously need to take another look at your worker entitlements. They were fine for days gone by, but now you can no longer afford them. The consumer and the taxpayer will have your back after all, though, so don't listen and keep dying. You see yourselves as so important that we won't allow you to fail... for the good of America.

As a country, our businesses no longer fear failure! Either the government will bail you out or buy you out, or another company will come by and pay billions for something more worthless than what's swirling in the bowl. Either way, there's a big fat payday at the end, and the idiots who drive these institutions into the ground can just sit back and live a life of luxury while the public suffers.

So none of you have listened, you still won't listen and you'll drive yourselves into the ground. Then you'll be coming to us for a handout, and I will say no. I will not be taxed for a product I do not want.

Let me make it absolutely crystal clear so we don't have a misunderstanding here. I don't want to save you. I don't need to save you. I'm not beholden to you. I'll be doing just fine without you, so you can not have my money.

One of the Big Three must fail, to save the other two, because then Detroit will realize that we are more than willing to allow them to fail. And then the rest of the business culture in America will wake up when they realize the payday for failure is dead.

At least, that's my hope.

04 November 2008

Our collapse continues.

NOLA.com - I-10 East at the high rise could remain closed overnight

Imagine you're driving outbound on the High Rise during rush hour. Normally, that's stressing enough. The bridge is indeed very high, substandard, and steep, a relic of the design standards of the turn of the decade into the 60's. I've climbed easier mountain grades on US 50 in Colorado. As such, your car would hate you already.

However, tonight the bridge itself made the experience more difficult. You see, an expansion joint just popped up, shredding tires and oil pans alike for those unfortunate enough to be stuck in the middle lane.

According to an initial report from the NOPD, it sounded like the "finger-joints" of the bridge, which connect concrete segments of the roadway to allow expansion/contraction when the temperature changes, failed when some bolts broke off.

The High Rise isn't the only substandard bridge in southern Louisiana, both from an Interstate-standard standpoint and a structural one. We have many. The Calcasieu River bridge in Lake Charles is the most startling example - a bridge built in 1952 to originally accommodate US 90. It carries four narrow lanes and no shoulders. It, like the High Rise, is very steep. I'll admit, trying to drive over it frightens me.

The Pearl River bridge on the other end of the state is similarly narrow and substandard, with only two lanes in each direction climbing high across the Pearl. Again, there are no shoulders. It's another bridge that scares me to even attempt to drive across.

The Huey P. Long bridge in Jefferson Parish, carrying US 90, is at least seeing rehabilitation and upgrades now, but one bridge being fixed isn't enough. In a strong enough wind, you could actually feel the bridge sway. The Huey P. Long bridge in Baton Rouge, carrying US 190, is no better, although it doesn't tend to sway that I've noticed.

We all know about the trouble with the Twin Spans already, so let's pass on trashing them. Besides, they're actually being replaced, a rarity here. Pity it took a hurricane to get their asses in gear on that.

The Causeway, on the other hand, is fair game. 23.8 miles, two lanes each way. Although it has crossovers, you had best pray your vehicle can survive the trip without breaking or running out of gas. There's no shoulders along the entire stretch, so if you can't make a crossover, you're stuck in the middle of traffic. There's talk of adding a third span or widening the existing ones, but right now it's just talk.

The point is, there are a lot of these bridges around here in piss-poor shape, or just too outmoded for today's traffic and design standards. Something happened on the High-Rise today, but it won't be long before something else happens on another bridge around here. People will most certainly die... and only then will we start taking it seriously and doing something about it.

30 October 2008

Post #100

Today, there was an accident on the still-under-construction replacement Twin Span bridges. A bridge girder broke, and ten workers plunged into the lake. Nine of them were recovered safely... but one died.

We sometimes forget just how dangerous this work can be. They're all busting their asses out there trying to get this bridge built as fast as possible, so that commuters have a safe option that can hopefully survive the next hurricane better. Although safety and technology have improved over the years, we haven't come along far enough to completely eliminate the risk of serious injury or death during a job such as this.

My condolences, and I'm sure the condolences of my readers as well, go to the worker's family.

24 October 2008

Texas's only traffic tunnel to reopen

Houston Chronicle - Ike-damaged Washburn Tunnel to reopen Saturday (10-25-2008)


View Larger Map

In 58 years of existence, Texas's sole traffic tunnel (according to the article), the Washburn Tunnel near Houston had never flooded.

Until Ike.

During the storm, it became completely inundated by the combined storm surges from the Houston Ship Channel to the south and Greens Bayou to the north. It took $100,000 to pay to have the tunnel drained of over 10 million gallons of water.

Might be worth a look one of these days now. At least starting Saturday, you can. Always worth a look if you're roadgeeking in Southeast Texas sometime soon... and in the meantime, you can almost "drive through" it on Street View.

Anyway, it's another sign of normalcy, and the area definitely needs those.

Show me a surplus and I'll show you lobbyists with their hands out.

The Advocate - I-49 advocates ask for funds

I went into the surplus in one of yesterday's posts. As I noted there, the people behind TIMED are looking at the possibility of tapping into an expected $865 million state surplus next year. Well, they'd better do it soon, because another group is proposing using some of it to work on the southern I-49 extension (a.k.a. That Highway That Should Be Designated Interstate Six!).

The I-49 South Coalition, dormant for years, is poised not only to lobby for some of the state surplus, but also to try to get some place in next year's federal transportation bill. Even then it'd be a drop in the bucket; several billion is still needed to bring the route (currently designated as US 90) up to Interstate standards, including about $700 million for an elevated connector through Lafayette itself and upwards of $4 billion possibly needed for the section between Bayou Lafourche and New Orleans.

According to them, however, drops in the bucket can help. $25 million could build an overpass, they say, and that's about what they say they're looking for - enough for one or more overpasses. (Memo to them... interchanges help too!)

...This seems oddly familiar... ah, well. I guess the chance to get ahold of some piece of nearly a billion dollars will attract everyone, especially in an economic downturn.

Just expect more of these as next year rapidly approaches... and expect them to spend like there's going to be another surplus. Which there probably won't...

The HORROR!

What was:


And now what is:


...The invasion has begun. Hide the women and children, and pass the ammunition! (Wait... I'm women and children... hide ME!)

TIMED is BROKE!

Times-Picayune - Portion of gas tax may pad program

Since 1989, Louisiana has had the TIMED program, a set of vitally-needed highway and bridge projects, funded by 4 cents of the gasoline tax (out of the total 20-cent tax). Some are done already, and others are in progress. (As in "shovels have been turned" or "lanes have been closed".)

However, two major projects remain on the TIMED list... a new bridge crossing in New Orleans along Florida Avenue... and this thing:

...Lemme tell you, since TIMED passed, this thing has been held up for one reason or another. For a long time, it was due to environmental impact. Lately, it's been because nobody can decide on a concrete routing. Now TIMED is broke because people aren't driving. Go figure. Of course, if people can't afford gas, they don't drive, which means they don't fill their tanks and less gas is sold. Louisiana's gas tax is static - they charge the same tax rate whether a gallon of gas costs forty cents or four dollars. It doesn't help that the cost of upgrading the Huey Long Bridge in Jefferson Parish is running way over projections due to a general increase in cost for, oh, everything since Katrina hit.

There's also the matter of the federal highway trust fund possibly being cut by $200 million or so due to a new formula for funding being considered by federal officials.

Anyway, the Wise Ones in Baton Rouge are figuring they can funnel another 3 cents from the gas tax to get these last few TIMED projects done. There's some other voodoo economics they're looking into, such as using money collected from the vehicle sales tax to go into roads, and possibly getting their hands on some of the surplus as well. There's also the possibility of taking $50 million from employee benefits. (I got a better idea... take some of it from the higher-ups' salaries!) They've already cut close to 400 jobs to try to save money as it is, so you know the belts are getting very tight up there.

TIMED's problems are only a drop in the bucket compared to the state's transportation woes as a whole. $14 billion construction backlog, you say? Yeah, you heard me right. I'll say this much... they're going to need some more potent voodoo for the books than what they're doing/proposing/imagining if they want to finish getting any of these projects done.

And they need to get done soon... 20 years is too long to wait, and we're still waiting.

12 October 2008

Auto-related death on Bayou Liberty Road


Times-Picayune - Slidell man killed in one-vehicle crash

You'd figure it would have to happen one of these days, sadly. I'll paint a picture for you of this road. It's extremely narrow, narrower than some of the side streets that intersect it. It's so narrow that all it has is a compact double-yellow centerline. No outer white lines denoting the edge of the road. No shoulders to speak of, just ditches at the end of the pavement. It's got lots of twists and turns, poor sightlines and heavy amounts of truck traffic. Not 18-wheelers, mind you, but smaller trucks with trailers, as that route is one heavily favored by construction cleanup drivers due it its proximity to the dump on nearby Howze Beach Road. In addition, there is a lot of truck+trailer+boat traffic as well, due to Bayou Liberty itself.

As well, the ability to upgrade it is nil for the time being, due to a severely limited right-of-way and running through an area loaded with wetlands. It shouldn't have a highway designation until it gets upgraded, but it's still designated. Truthfully, the only reason it's designated right now (according to me, anyway) is because it connects two otherwise-discontiguous sections of LA 433, and because it serves a hotspot for fishermen.

It carries a 40mph speed limit, which may regrettably be too high for the road. Honestly, I don't know how any sane person would give it a limit over 30mph. Despite all that, people still speed. You can often find idiots doing upwards of 60mph along the road. Its twists and turns in rapid succession make for an adrenaline-junkie's wet dream.

And yet, now we hear about someone dying along the road due to crashing out. It's long overdue. I also don't see what more we can do about it for the time being, other than a total rebuild, and even if that were in the cards it would take time.

The other option is to reduce the speed limit to 30mph, making it less attractive to all the through traffic that uses it.

26 September 2008

17 September 2008

Slidell: I-10 Exit 265 almost done...

Times-Picayune - New I-10 interchange at Fremaux Ave. in Slidell nearly ready

This was one of the places me, Froggie, H.B. and a few others visited the weekend before Gustav hit. It's a nearly-complete interchange along I-10 in Slidell meant to connect it directly to Business US 190. It's a standard diamond, with auxiliary lanes on the northern side along I-10 running to Exit 266 (US 190, a.k.a. Gause Boulevard).

Structurally, the interchange itself could be used now. Many final touches like fencing, however, are not done yet. Striping on half of the new Business 190 roadbed wasn't started at the time of our stop. Also, no signage is up at the interchange yet.

The interchange was supposed to be done a few months ago, but weather kept delaying it... and then the hurricanes came, pushing it back some more. Normally, all this delay would give me lots of reason to rake LaDoTD and the James Construction Group, who's contracted to do the work, over the proverbial coals, but let's face it. The whole state's gone through a trauma the past couple of weeks. I don't excuse them for the earlier delays. There's other contractors out there that get lots of work building and repairing our roads, and they get the work done lightning-fast. However, since the storms, what's more important?

It'd be nice to get this interchange finished and all, since it should have been done already. Thing is, there are more important things to worry about now, things that will likely require pulling in resources from elsewhere.

Screw the contracts. We've got new priorities now. Suddenly that elevated LA 1 project seems like something we need to get finished yesterday. Getting the new Twin Spans ready to handle traffic is another thing that needs to be on the fastest track possible, in case another storm sweeps in and cripples the old Spans beyond repair in the meantime. Another thing we need to look at is adding lanes to some of our most-used evacuation routes, either in a temporary or permanent capacity. Not to mention non-highway related necessities like modernizing our power grids and restoring our coastline. Let's get them done first, and let's not bitch about things that suddenly don't seem so important anymore.

05 September 2008

The Mother Of All Rants

No cable since Monday, nowhere to go, nothing to drink and nothing to do but listen to the radio. Story of my week. So I listened. And then I listened some more, and as I heard optimism change to pessimism, pessimism change to desperation and desperation change to outrage, I felt the same.

Gustav wasn't the "mother of all storms" that Hizzoner and his lackeys across the parish line was claiming, but true, it could have been much worse than it was. Grand Isle went underwater, but everything seemingly puts Grand Isle underwater during hurricane season. Nevertheless, virtually everyone and their brother in southeast Louisiana fled for their lives.

In my last post before the storm, I posted about the bottleneck along I-59 at I-20. Well, there's another one that bit people in the ass. You see, Gustav was a Rare Event. There were two ways to go to escape that ended up working out: North and east. I-55 played fine the whole way, and I already bitched about I-59, but there's one other way out of town... I-10. Sure, you couldn't just stay on I-10 through Slidell, you'd get forced onto I-59. If you were on I-12 eastbound, though, you were able to transition onto I-10 eastbound just fine. A bunch of people did just that, or they took US 90 eastbound. Either way, people got to the closed I-10 East. You had smooth sailing until you got to Alabama. Some people were smart and turned onto I-65 northbound toward Montgomery, Birmingham and Atlanta. Others figured on going even farther east to Florida (which in itself is a stupid decision during Hurricane Season.) So on they went... and met the most unholy of all bottlenecks along the entire Interstate System, the Mobile Funnel.

Yes, the Mobile Funnel. You're cruising along on a WIDE section of I-10 and then suddenly it sheds all but two lanes. Traffic backed up all the way to Mississippi at points due to this.

Strike one!

Eventually, people got where they were going, but for one reason or another, people just have to hurry and get back. Maybe they're the working poor who had to use their bill money to run, or maybe they're the paranoid ones who are rightfully concerned about the property they left behind because the Bad People will come and loot it all away. For the former, the sky-high costs of fuel and lodging screwed them. Regardless, the most they could stay away was maybe two days. So, they turned tail once the winds died down and started their trek back, learning from their mistakes and making it back inside a day.

Then they got stopped at the Twin Spans. They got stopped at the US 11 bridge. They got stopped at the Jefferson and Orleans Parish lines.

These people sat for HOURS with no food, no water and no fuel. These people had children, elderly and those with less-than-stellar health traveling with them. They watched as the Troopers, Guardsmen and parish deputies got food delivered to them so they could continue to turn away the weak.

So, people called in and bitched over the radio. Eventually, the All-Powerful Lord Broussard and others decided to let those people in. Some did so Tuesday (Lafourche, who I actually give high marks through this nightmare), some did so on Wednesday (Everywhere else except Orleans). Even St. Bernard Parish, which had virtually no power and restricted the movements of the citizens via a 24-hour curfew... THEY let people back in on Wednesday.

But Hizzoner stood firm on not letting the people back in until Thursday.

It's far better to let the people come back and assess things, maybe decide if they want to stay away a while longer until all the amenities come back, or stay despite no power and sewerage.

Broussard, Nagin, Davis... It is not your call, it's ours. Fuck you. Strike two!

Let's get back to the evacuation here. The best ways to go were north and east. A bunch of the Contraflow plan pushed people west, though. West was not the way to go. West got slaughtered in this storm. Baton Rouge suffered the worst hurricane damage in their history, and even at the time of this posting, is still suffering widespread power outages.

And Baton Rouge caught only a glancing blow compared to other prime Contraflow destinations. Lafayette, Opelousas, Alexandria... all of those safe havens to the west caught a LOT of damage. There was even damage as far north as Shreveport.

Problem is, Contraflow is only one plan. It scatters people in all directions, even when we KNOW the storm's going a certain way.

Contraflow succeeded somewhat in getting people out, but it sent many to places that caught much more damage than the New Orleans area did. What we need is variable Contraflow. We need different plans that can be changed in the event that the storm heads one way. Right now, you can't go east if Contraflow is active.

Ok, in theory you can go east on I-10 instead of getting forced onto I-59 Contraflow North if Mississippi doesn't call an evacuation, but if the storm's hitting anywhere that would force Southeast Louisiana Contraflow to be active, Mississippi's calling some sort of evacuation.

Either way, you can't go east, which SUCKS when the storm's coming to the west like Gustav did.

Unlike the Mobile Funnel situation, I've actually got an idea for this, but it's going to require Mississippi and Alabama to play ball. Let's call this Contraflow Plan B.
  • Keep northbound I-55 the same.
  • Leave I-59 as it is in normal Contraflow, but allow traffic to remain on eastbound I-10.
  • Traffic from eastbound I-12 contraflows onto westbound I-10. If you're coming from Mississippi for a hurricane heading west, you shouldn't be heading west. Sorry.
  • Contraflow I-10 through the entire state of Mississippi this way. Traffic entering the Interstate from Mississippi can use either the normal east or contraflow east lanes to leave Mississippi, or use northbound arterials to go north. (And build I-61 north, for fuck's sake!)
  • Entering Alabama from the west, I-10 remains in Contraflow until it reaches I-65.
  • I-65 north becomes Contraflow for about 20-30 miles, all lanes northbound. All traffic from Contraflow eastbound I-10 (the westbound lanes) will use I-65 Contraflow northbound (normal southbound). I-10's normal eastbound traffic will have a choice - two lanes to I-65 north, and only two lanes to eastbound I-10 and the Tunnel. All other eastbound lanes will be blocked off!
  • Normal westbound I-10 at Mobile will be forced to divert to northbound I-65 if they don't get off beforehand.
It could work if all three involved states (Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama) would play ball.

Strike three, yer out!

Regardless, evacuation went well, but repopulation failed because of the ego trips of all the leaders involved. Unless the roads are all under 2 feet of water or something, the people should be allowed to return as they feel it's safe. Instead of saying "You can't come back yet", tell us why we can't come back. We've got TV, Internet or radios. If there's a nest of live power lines down in Algiers, tell us this. If Metairie's under 6 feet of water, TELL us this! Don't just say we can't return, give us a damn good reason not to and let the people judge for themselves! We still have Katrina on our minds, being locked out for weeks, even months at a time. We're antsy because of the looting and such that occurred after Katrina. We're poor and can't afford to stay in hotels that gouge us half a month's earnings for two or three days and can't afford gasoline prices that have been speculated out of reach of the poor. People will not evacuate ever again due to this bullshit!

Every elected official in Orleans Parish, as well as parishwide leaders in Jefferson need to be removed from office. These officials dropped the ball on the final out of a perfect game.

That's right, the final lame baseball analogy... That's it, off to the showers. You're OUT the game!

Finally, a proposal. Feds, you listening?

STORM PROFITEERING

In the event of a hurricane warning, prices of food, automotive fuel and lodging shall be frozen at current levels in areas covered in the warnings, as well as likely destinations of the evacuating population. No establishment in these areas offering these items or services shall raise their prices in the event of an impending natural disaster, lest they face the same penalties as those prescribed by law for war profiteering. They may lower prices as needed to clear perishable stock, but cannot raise their prices past pre-storm levels afterward, although they may match pre-storm pricing if desired. This law shall remain in effect for 60 days after landfall of such a hurricane, although this period may be shortened or waived at the discretion of the President or a majority vote of either the Senate or the House of Representatives. The President or the aforementioned legislative majorities may also call for 15 day extensions of this period if conditions warrant.

The cruelest irony

The Friday after the storm, and now I can actually connect online. Power was back on in my place after only 12 hours, but it took til today to get the cable TV (and therefore my Internet) repaired.

Go figure. Would have preferred to have no power either, so I wouldn't know what I was missing so much.

Anyway, I've got a scathing rant to prepare about the Mobile Funnel, so laaaaaate.

01 September 2008

Theme of the overnight: Bitching about contraflow.


Yes, there's still power and Internet here, and I can't sleep, so I've been listening to WWL all night.

The most common theme I've heard is of traffic slowing to a literal crawl at various points along I-59 in Mississippi, and there's a few culprits.

1. There just aren't enough places for traffic to bleed off of the Interstate when Contraflow is active.
2. Mississippi evacuated their coast. Can't blame them for that.
3. This will take more than one sentence: the design of the I-20/I-59 merge in Meridian.

Specifically, it's a dangerous configuration, and woefully inadequate to handle Contraflow-induced traffic. I-59 northbound merging with I-20 eastbound seems innocent enough, as two lanes from I-59 make that junction. Before the end of the ramp, though, I-59's onramp contracts to ONE lane. This means that four lanes contract to two when Contraflow ends, then has to further contract to one before reaching merged I-20/59 east out of Meridian.

No wonder people get past Laurel and find a parking lot signed with Interstate shields!

People will be looking to point the finger big time about this. Heads will roll, and jobs will be lost.

My solution is actually extremely simple.

1. At the two or three mile mark to the merge, expand I-59 north to three lanes. Clearly sign the left lane as exit only to westbound I-20 assuming the current interchange design is kept. Sign the two right lanes as "through" to I-20/59 northeast.
2. At the lane split, keep two lanes for I-59 to I-20/59 traffic throughout the entire ramp. This will cause there to be four lanes on the merged section for a short stretch.
3. I-20/59 northeast sheds one lane, as it currently does, but contracts to three lanes instead of two. Make the rightmost lane auxiliary for the next exit, and provide LOTS of warning signage between the merge and US 11/MS 19, which appears to be the next exit after the I-20/59 merge.

If this isn't done, then to LaDoTD and the Mississippi DOT I say this: Don't bother listing I-59 north as an evacuation route, because people won't go!

31 August 2008

Zero Hour.

The worst is only a little bit away.

Making final preparations here.

See you on the other side!

Zero Day has begun.

I guess there is a God of some sort, because Gustav weakened back to a 3 overnight. I dunno.

I'm now in a mandatory evacuation area as of about four hours ago. However, I'm on the barest edge of it, so I'm still staying put and hoping this place makes it again. This place will more than easily withstand tropical storm or Cat 1 winds, which seem now to be the consensus for this area. I should be far enough inland and high enough to withstand whatever surge there is.

I will be here until the end.

Every parish south of the lake is under mandatory evac now.

At this point, Gustav is drawing in some dry air and encountering some shear. This has caused it to drop from a Category 4 to a Cat 3 overnight. My hope is that these conditions will prevail upon the storm, but the fact is that it could strengthen again. It's also picked up forward momentum, meaning that while it may be more difficult to turn, it'll also rush through faster. At the speeds it had yesterday though... adding a couple miles per hour doesn't make much difference.

One day til landfall...

30 August 2008

Back from the road meet...

A lot of stuff was seen, including this on the way back:


Seems a highway once gone and thought decommissioned still exists!

Also, we're under a hurricane watch now. Expect that to escalate to a warning before long.

Gustav's exploded to Category 4 strength during the day. It's possible that it could go even further upwards to a Cat 5 once it passes Cuba, but landfall as a Category 4 in Terrebonne Parish somewhere. The Westbank is facing severe devastation, and the Eastbank may see it as bad as Katrina.

While out on the meet, we saw that I-10 East and US 90 East were packed full of traffic getting the hell out. I-59 was seeing heavier-than-usual traffic this afternoon, but expect that to explode. If anyone reading this is in Southern Louisiana and planning to evacuate, now is the time.

If you're getting out and coming through St. Tammany, going north, LA 21 is WIDE OPEN. It has a four-lane section from Bush to Bogalusa and can be used as a VERY effective evacuation route. This section can also be accessed from LA 41 for those going through the eastern part of the parish.

I will be shutting down my desktop machines tomorrow night once I have all the pics uploaded from today that are worth using. I'll still be blogging from one of my laptops unless something changes.

Nothing new.

Looks like they're pretty settled on it making landfall somewhere southeast of Lafayette as a Cat 3. I think the Westbank's going to catch the worst of it, especially up the river.

No evacuations of any sort for St. Tammany, Tangipahoa or Washington parishes yet.

29 August 2008

From The Horse's Ass:

!!! According to FEMA, contraflow is expected to begin in Louisiana at 8AM Sunday (August 31). !!!

(The above info is, of course, assuming the current track remains accurate.)

As well, as far as I'm aware:

President Bush has declared a state of emergency for Louisiana.

The parishes of St. Bernard, St. Charles and Plaquemines will call for mandatory evacuations on Saturday. I'd guess other Tier 1 evacuation (coastal) parishes will be ready to do the same.

A voluntary evacuation of Grand Isle has begun today.

As of the time of this post, schools will be closed Tuesday (at the least) in Jefferson, Orleans (RSD and OPSB), St. John the Baptist, St. Charles and St. Tammany Parishes.

LSU has rescheduled their football game against Appalachian State for 10AM tomorrow, so that hopefully the people getting out after the game will not interfere with evacuations. The game must go on in Death Valley, I guess.

At the moment, no shelters have been opened in St. Tammany Parish, and no evacuations, either voluntary or mandatory, have been called yet. Good news for my neck of the woods.

Gustav itself has left Jamaica and is reforming quickly. An eyewall appears to be beginning to form, according to some satellite images. It's expected to acheive Category 3 status before it makes landfall. The track is continuing to indicate the most likely landfall area will be on the coast somewhere south to south
-southeast of Lafayette. Two things about the storm worry me now. One is that its surface area is growing larger. The hope is that hurricane-force winds will remain tightly packed around the center. The other thing is that it appears to be picking up forward speed.

We will never forget.

Today marks three years since Katrina hit...

Ok, with that memorial bit out of the way now... Gustav's track has shifted to the west some more. It appears now that (if THIS track holds) Lafayette and Lake Charles are locked dead center in its sights. As it is, it's still mired in Jamaica, so it hasn't strengthened back to a hurricane just yet. One problem is that the track's got it back to a morning landfall and projects it to slow its forward momentum immediately afterward. This may not be the exact track it ends up with, but it's a disturbing development all the same.

Plaquemines, St. Charles and St. Bernard Parishes are going to start special needs evacuation today.

A state of emergency has been declared in St. Tammany Parish. Parish President Kevin Davis is now saying based on current models, no evacuation would be called until Sunday.

More as I have it...

28 August 2008

As Per The Usual

Obliteration Delayed?

Landfall forecasts have been pushed back again. Still expected to turn wherever it hits into a parking lot Tuesday, but now "predicted" to be sometime during the PM hours. As it did over Haiti, Gustav's forward momentum's remained slow passing over Jamaica as well. In fact, since it made landfall in Haiti, its forward momentum hasn't exceeded 7mph. As long as its forward momentum remains slow, the chances increase for a major change of track, or at least allow for more evacuation time. The track does appear to be sneaking to the east.

Remember what I said about unpredictability?

One thing that could swing things further in our favor are a pair of high pressure systems in the U.S.. One in the east may have been keeping it down towards the Caribbean, and another could steer it west as the first falls apart. The trick will be, how long will it take for that second high to get here? If it gets here quickly enough and Gustav keeps spinning its wheels, the high could steer it off into Texas or southwestern Louisiana.

Effect on Evacuation Protocol

According to WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge, the Governor will not start Contraflow before Sunday.

Local parishes in the area may be holding back "official" evacuations for a while due to this. That hasn't stopped them from declaring emergencies, though. Say what you will about the ineptness of state, regional and local government, it seems they actually learned something from Katrina. Some people are already ready to GTFO at a moment's notice, and others are still preparing, so traffic may run higher than usual.

I'm still "go" here to ride this out, by the way.

Morning update from Taralyn's Obsessive Eye (TM)

Since waking up a few hours ago, I've done nothing but keep an eye on Gustav, on the steering currents, water temperatures, etc. I've been watching everything from the Weather Channel to Cuban radar stations. (The latter is showing a clear center of circulation closing in on Jamaica from the east at the time of this post.) These are the joys of having no job, no life, an innate sense for the weather and more computer equipment than some rural TV stations.

So, from what I've been observing and calculating, the only constant in this Gustav drama seems to be delay. When it first made hurricane strength, it was forecast to smack Louisiana around by Sunday. At this point, it's not even forecast to enter the Gulf til Sunday, and our date with annihilation's been shoved back to Tuesday.

The models have caused a shift in track back to the west. Now it's forecast to nail the Morgan City/Thibodaux/Houma area again. Of course, you can't predict that far ahead, it's all guesswork. Look at the track Fay ended up taking. No computer model could have predicted that. It could yet fool us all and give Texas or Florida another beating, or it could be the Nightmare Scenario and come right up the river. Or running over Jamaica could very well destroy it like running over Haiti nearly did. Point is, we still got to prepare for the worst until it is gone, dissipated, dead. Can't let your guard down just yet, people.

The one thing I'm noticing about the storm at this point is that the range of tropical storm force wind is still small in diameter. If anything, this is going to resemble Camille more than it'll resemble Katrina. Of course, I Am Not A Meteorologist here, but it's still a strong gut feeling. Surge will still be a concern when it hits, yes, but it won't be like Katrina.

Of course, as always, take this with a grain of salt, and for $deity's sake, be ready for anything.

27 August 2008

Another storm approaches.

Yet another storm has its sights set on Louisiana. Me, being the ever-obsessive type that I am, I've had radar and satellite loops running all day. My room's looking a lot like the backdrop of most news broadcasts during the weather segment. I've even got my Marks-A-Lot. I got my preparations done today, and I'm going to be riding it out, possibly blogging away until the power finally dies.

I have no doubts. This storm very well could finish the region, considering its weakened state since Katrina, both from a physical and a governmental point of view. (Personally, I'd love to see Mandeville City Hall get wiped off the map so the corruption there can be cleansed, but that's beside the point.) The point is, while this storm could prove to be a near-fatal blow to the region if it comes in as predicted, I won't be leaving. If anything, I'm coming out of this one standing.

I knew when I saw Gustav form that I wouldn't be going anywhere. My house survived Katrina, and the best place to be for this storm is right here. If anything, after reading this post earlier today, my resolve has only been cemented more. He's right of course... we're the best at dealing with disasters like this. We can handle anything anyone, even nature, can toss at us. We're disaster-tested and our resolve is as tough as nails. We're resourceful, even in the darkest hours.

Those parts of the area that are coming back so far are indeed coming back stronger than before, despite all the red tape and F*** runarounds. The recovery will not be stopped by this new threat. It may be delayed, but nothing will stop it. Strike us down, and we will rise up once more, much stronger than ever before. Life will still go on.

Before I end this post, just know one more thing. We are many things. We may be many other things in the eyes of the rest of the country, but never doubt one thing above all else about myself and anyone else in this region.

We are survivors.

26 August 2008

Off-topic: 9 year old pitcher banned for being "too good"

ESPN - 9-year-old boy told he's too good to pitch

Outside the blog's scope, I know, but I'm bored and this story kind of burns me. (Should some parent want their kid to look at this entry, I'm going to keep the language kid-safe.)

When we were younger, we didn't get coddled in sports, right? Used to be, something like this was unheard of. If you couldn't hit the pitch, you just had to get better until you could. Either way, the kid would grow up to be a major-league fireballer.

Instead, the kid's "too good." No one can hit off of him. Instead of facing him, an opposing team recently walked away and forfeited rather than face the kid's 40mph heat. His league's banned him from pitching and is even threatening to disband his team. Twenty years ago... maybe even ten years ago, this would be unheard of, and any parents pushing for this would rightfully be called whiners. Indeed, the parents would be told to tell their kids "if you can't hit it, you need to improve."

One other reason cited is due to the velocity, according to the league's attorney. (Can we burn all the lawyers in the pit yet? No? Darn.) Problem is, the kid's pitches have all went true... he's never hit a batter. It'd be one thing if he threw more wild pitches than Mark Wohlers, but instead, this kid's got the control of a Tom Glavine of a few years ago (say, pre-Mets). He's no danger to the other kids in the league.

I suspect an ulterior motive in this - the kid turned down an invite to the defending league champions, sponsored by an employer of one of the league administrators. (Cornering the market much? Little League Evil Empire - ah, Yankees?) Instead, he joined a different team unconnected to the administration. The kid's coaches and parents suspect the same reason could be leading to this. Play for us or we'll make your team suffer for it. Sounds plausible.

Either way, after the opposing team wussed out instead of playing the game, the young pitcher's mother unloaded, threatening them and vowing to get the league shut down. She did deny the threats, but called the police.

Good for her. At least one league parent has a spine.

Options are being floated out there for the kid, and none of them are good. One is for him simply not to pitch, which in my opinion is wasting a skill. The kid's obviously a pitching savant. Another may be for him to pitch against older kids. This, too, is a bad option, one that could stunt his natural progression of talent as he gets older. One more is switching positions, which he already does on off days. Again, it would be squandering savant-level talent.

New Haven could be proud of this kid one day. He could pitch a complete game to end a World Series once he grows up, once he realizes his potential, and when he does, residents could be proud of the local boy for doing good. Instead, the parents who are pushing this kid out are being selfish. Their own kids feel bad because they can't hit off him. "Mommy, Daddy, he's making me look bad. Do something." Boo hoo. Cry me a river, please.

Kids are supposed to face some adversity as they grow up. You can't shield them forever, and if you manage it, the kids grow up as useless leeches on society at large. They grow up fragile, easily broken and very difficult to repair. Worse, they grow up thinking they've been wronged any time the wind shifts. Let them face some adversity, and let them toughen up. It'll prepare them for life after childhood, and the right kind of toughening can serve any kid well. It's the real world... you will always lose at least once. It can't be avoided. Losing isn't the end of the world. It doesn't even matter in the long run. What counts is how you rebound and what you learn from it.

In short... these whiny parents and scorned admins need to leave this kid alone, and let their own kids toughen up in the face of the heat.

23 August 2008

There is a disturbance in the Force.

What is wrong with this picture?

I'll give you enough time to figure it out.

*goes to make coffee*

Ok. What's wrong with that picture? It's simple. People are responding to a Calbog post. Last I checked, he was covered under OStT.

Meaning, we do NOT reply to the troll. Especially when he starts topics.

Sure, you r.a.driving and m.t.road newbies might think he's harmless. Trust me, this is not the case. (Look for the post by calrog@gmail.com, one of his aliases.)

Calbog is, put simply, a troll and an attention whore. He blasts people for absolutely no reason on the newsgroups. He spews enough homophobic bile to make one think he's buried deep in the world's largest closet. And, to add insult to injury, if you're not running Windows, chances are you can't even see his steaming pile of a site.

Most of us don't respond to him and have him as the primary target of Operation Starve the Troll (OStT) for a damned good reason. Some of us might break out the flamethrower on blogs and such, but we try not to respond directly to him on the newsgroups. It is in everyone's best interests to leave Calbog to the professionals like myself and anyone else who's not one of the offending newbie posters.

Thus ends this public service announcement.

20 August 2008

More tolls in Texas?


Dallas Morning News - Toll lanes may get I-35E up to speed for Dallas, Denton

Disclaimer: I've only passed through Dallas a few times in the past.

So, I got extremely bored and decided that since nothing was blog-worthy here, I'd look around. So here, I'm taking in Texas. Go figure.

I've only traveled on a small stretch of IH 35E in the past, but from what little I saw, it's definitely not high on my personal "to clinch" list, mainly due to the traffic. It could use a bit of work. (Okay... Biggest understatement ever.) Widening would definitely help matters. They've even been planning to do it for 20 years now.

Problem is, right now, the price tag for it is a staggering $2.9 billion.

Other problem is, at the moment, only $535 million is set aside so far for it. That's just barely over 1/6th of the cost. So, they're considering making up the difference with tolls. Basically, a "design-build" project - employ a private contractor and possibly use private investments to cover the difference, then toll the stretch until the private investment is repaid.

Normally, Yours Truly is rabidly anti-toll, especially on existing roadways. However, it appears at the moment that only the new lanes would be tolled. New general-use lanes and frontage roads would be added, alongside the toll lanes. I'd almost consider this a recipe for disaster, but the plans seem solid enough for me to hold off on calling shenanigans on this thing.

Time's going to tell on this, of course. Nothing's been finalized yet. Right now, the story is mainly focusing on the hypothetical, on what a U.S. Rep, the Deputy Secretary of Transportation, and Texas DOT officials say needs to be done.

It does need to be done, though. Yes, it needs to be done as soon as possible. While there may be another way that hasn't been explored fully enough, using the design-build approach may end up being the only way. The price will only keep spiraling upward, and the freeway's not getting any less congested in the meantime.

So whatever they are going to do, they need to do it quickly.

18 August 2008

More pics. Yay!

To be brief, I've got over 50 new pics to get uploaded and posted everyplace sometime soon. There's a few more shots along LA 1088, LA 59, I-12, US 190, LA 22, West Causeway Approach and LA 1087.

I also managed to get a live snap of possibly the only Parish Route sign left in St. Tammany, a lone Parish Route 24 sign at the eastern terminus of Sharp Road near Mandeville. (This would be analogous to a County Route shield anyplace else in the country.)

More updates as I get them posted... and as I sober up. Wheeee, vodka.

15 August 2008

Very quick rant

Really. Is it too much to ask for out-of-the-box support in Linux for the sound chip on a Thinkpad 600?!

14 August 2008

I saw something interesting today...

Apparently there's a "Proposed LA 3114" in the DOTD's Urbanized Functional Classification map for the Mandeville/Covington area.

The proposed routing is from the intersection of US 190 and LA 25 in Covington east (as if US 190's E/W portion continued east from the intersection) to LA 437, then further east to LA 21 between its intersections with LA 36 and LA 1082. According to the legend, it would be considered a "Minor Arterial." Future LA 3241, by contrast, is anticipated to be a "Principal Arterial."

I could see some point to this connection. Right now, if you're coming from Hammond/Robert/Goodbee on US 190 and you want to head northeast towards Bogalusa (or going the other way, in which case take the directions in reverse), you have a few bad options:
  1. Turn north on LA 25, go to Folsom and turn east on LA 40. Although LA 25 is in good shape up to Folsom, LA 40 tends to be in not-as-good condition. It also adds a bunch of unnecessary miles.
  2. Turn south on US 190, then either cut through Downtown Covington on Spur LA 437 and LA 437, then turn east (Northbound by signage) on LA 21 OR stay on US 190, cross the Bogue Falaya Bridge, turn west on Business US 190, then turn north on LA 21. Both of these options add not only mileage, but traffic to the situation.
Looking at the map, it appears therefore that the purpose of the proposed route would be as a northern high-speed bypass of Covington, with easier access as a bonus. Wonder why they haven't tried to build it yet...

In the same map and the Slidell/Lacombe one, there's a more clear-cut routing for Future LA 3241 depicted. It appears that if it cosigns with LA 1088 at all, the concurrency would only run a mile or so.

Also, a couple of interesting errors:
  • LA 36 between Abita Springs and Covington is misprinted as "LA 35"
  • Proposed LA 3241 is reflected properly on the Mandeville/Covington map, but printed as "Proposed LA 324" on the Slidell map.
I can tell I'm going to have a good bit of reading to do...

13 August 2008

Lane closures announced in relation to Huey Long Bridge widening

Times-Picayune - Huey Long bridge work to bring long-term lane closures

TIMED overview and information on this project


View Larger Map

Here's the gist of it. The right lanes of the bridge will see closure for as long as 60 days in the foreseeable future due to a widening project. There will be tow trucks stationed on the bridge in case of breakdowns. If an emergency requiring evacuation occurs (such as a hurricane), the barriers closing off the right lane can be removed within 48 hours. The speed limit will be 35mph along the bridge while these closures are in effect.

They're pulling out all the stops on this one. Got to admire that.

Work needs to be done badly on this bridge, though. It's narrow, and it's a little flimsy. It's a tough old bridge, don't get me wrong, but its design is way out of date, especially for a main artery. The work (a TIMED project) will likely modernize it.

In the meantime, plan an alternate route until they get these closures out of the way. I-310 and Business US 90 (I-910/Future I-49) utilize the closest bridges.

Yay, nepotism. (Yes, another Drunk Eddie post.)

NOLA.com - Contracts linked to mayor's family

And more shit hits the fan as the days pass. You've got to love nepotism. Get into power, pass the perks along to the family. Pity it's illegal.

Yet it seems that the City of Mandeville's Public Works Department has been handing out contracts to companies connected to Drunk Eddie's family - just one of the blatant violations of state law during that process. It's bad enough Drunk Eddie's been using taxpayer money to go to Pebble Beach and other destinations for the overlord-class, but his extended family's benefiting as well with these illegal lets.

Of course, the City also ran afoul of a law requiring public advertising for projects that are slated to be bid if they run more than $100,000... several times. Drunk Eddie's excuse? The projects were divided into phases and he "was not aware that the work should have been viewed as one project and added he was unaware of the bid law requirement."

Last I checked, ignorance of the law still means you're guilty if you break it. If I'm (hypothetically) illiterate and I do 90 in a 55, I'm still going to get busted for speeding. Never mind that I (hypothetically) can't read the sign or my speedometer.

Drunk Eddie's been in office now for 28 years or so. He can't have just been doing this for the past few years. He has to have been perpetrating this felonious stupidity for a long time. Who knows how much taxpayer money his crony in-laws and corrupt buddies have pocketed in the greater part of three decades?

The right answer is: "It doesn't matter how much it was - if he stole or squandered even one cent of taxpayer money, he should be jailed."

Now the Feds are looking long and hard at Business As Usual at City Hall in Mandeville, and I for one say it's well past About Damn Time. I'd beg him to resign while he still has some small sliver of a good name left, but it's WAY past time for that.

It's way too late to simply resign now, Mister Mayor. As they say in Monopoly: "Go to jail. Go straight to jail. Do not pass 'Go', do not earn $200." And feel free to drop the soap. You deserve the end result.

12 August 2008

Last Call for Drunk Eddie?

WWL-AM/FM - Audit paints bad picture of Mandeville mayor

WWL-AM/FM - Goyeneche says Price needs to resign

WWL AM/FM - Mandeville Mayor says he won't resign (NOLA.com - Related: Mayor's personal statement)

Legislative Auditor's Report (.pdf)

Lots of links, and I apologize for that, but it appears the shit's really hit the fan for Drunk Eddie. (Warranting three separate stories back to back to back on WWL's website, by itself, is amazing.) The Legislative Auditor's Office has released their report on what goes on in Mandeville city government, and some of it is pretty damning for Price and the rest of the Good-Ol'-Boy Network in charge here.

Areas of concern from the Auditor's Office include the Citizen's Service Fund, city credit card usage...
"The City issued credit cards to the mayor, all department heads, and numerous other City employees. Several of these credit cards are consolidated into one account and are summarized on one monthly statement by cardholder. In addition, Mayor Edward Price, III and Milton Stiebing, finance director, each has separate credit cards. From September 2003 through March 2008, Mayor Price made 620 credit card transactions totaling $56,733 and Mr. Stiebing made 119 transactions totaling $17,210. Of the amounts charged, we noted 65 personal charges by Mayor Price totaling $8,845; 356 charges for meals totaling $36,103 that lacked proper documentation; and 15 charges relating to parties and celebratory functions totaling $6,143. By using a City issued credit card for personal use, Mayor Price may have violated state law."
...personal use of City vehicles and Fuelman cards...
"The City provides vehicles to all department heads and certain employees including Mayor Price. In addition, the City provides insurance coverage, pays for maintenance, and provides each vehicle user with a Fuelman card to purchase fuel. During our review of vehicle and Fuelman usage, we noted (1) the City does not have a written policy on the use of City vehicles and Fuelman cards; (2) City employees, including Mayor Price routinely use City vehicles and Fuelman cards for personal purposes such as out-of-state vacations; (3) the City does not include the value of the personal use of the vehicles as income to these employees; and (4) the City does not mark all its vehicles in compliance with state law. By using public vehicles and Fuelman cards for personal use, these employees may have violated state law."
...improper gifts...
"Louisiana Revised Statute (R.S.) 42:1115 provides, in part, that no public servant shall solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, anything of economic value as a gift or gratuity from any person or employee of any person who has or is seeking to obtain contractual or other business or financial relationships with the public servant’s agency. During a review of Mayor Price’s e-mails, we noted several messages which indicated that people doing business with the City were providing things of value, including golf trips and hunting trips, to Mayor Price, Mr. Stiebing, and Councilman Gerard Coogan. We spoke with Mayor Price, Mr. Stiebing, and Councilman Coogan and some of these third parties and confirmed that Mayor Price, Mr. Stiebing, and Councilman Coogan may have received gifts."
...and the list goes on. Read the full Report for all of it. Needless to say that Mayor Price, as well as a couple of other city officials, seem to be pretty much caught red-handed on this stuff by the Auditor's Office. OF course, after the Report was released, Mayor Price responded, saying that he wouldn't resign. I'd post snippets from his denial, but I'm trying to conserve space.

Fact is, with some of these findings, getting kicked out of office would be the LEAST punishment that could be applied here. Louisiana politicians may have once been able to get away with murder, but that trend's been changing as of late. Don't believe me? Just ask Edwin Edwards, Jim Brown, William Jefferson or Derrick Shepard. They've either been burned already, or are feeling a ton of heat right now. Also ask the current governor. Although he hasn't done anything illegal yet, he sure as hell vetoed the raise the Legislature voted themselves after feeling the heat from the voters, including heat in the form of recall petitions.

In an age of near-universal discontent among not only the disenfranchised minority and impoverished populations but also the middle-class, and of massive amounts of information available to anyone who knows how to Google, politicians can't get away with outright blatant abuses like Price has appeared to do during his time in office. He might even end up as EWE or "Dollar" Bill's cellmate in federal prison.

The first thing he should do when he wakes up is to announce he's resigning. The second thing he should do is hire a damned good criminal lawyer. And please... please, for the love of $deity, use your OWN money to hire the lawyer.

11 August 2008

Mini-upd*te and a mini-rant

Just two more album updates tonight... I'll finish up tomorrow.

IH 12 - Pics taken at various points in the highway's St. Tammany Parish routing
The Tammany Trace - Fitting that the largest album I have so far would be of a bike trail. 24 shots in all spanning from Abita Springs to Mandeville.

As per the usual, all snaps are geotagged. No need for "Operation Spam Minor Upd*tes" when you can keep up as you go instead of waiting on it, you know.

Also, Accueil saw a fairly hearty upd*te of its own tonight. Check the Updates page on the site for that info.

-----------------

Two for the price of one! OSTT so far appears to be working well against its initial targets, Calbog and Racist Randy. At the least, inane idiocy doesn't turn into a flamewar of Vietnam-like proportions. (Except in the case of two people who "broke" it earlier tonight on Calbog. Guys, <ostt-break> is still OSTT-breaking!)

Well, apparently, someone liked the concept enough to suggest it at another NG, this time on Poologski. About time. Way to go, Odo. Don't know who you are, but way to go nonetheless.

That said, once Poologski found out, he turned around and proceeded to pitch a bitch in MTR like a child whose favorite toy got burned right in front of their eyes. Someone just call the WAAAAAAAHmbulance already, please.

While OSTT/MTR currently doesn't apply to him, can we please expand it to Poologski? It's only fair, considering how much he likes spamming #roadgeek, then whining about it on MTR.

A house is NOT the road!

NOLA.com - Car crashes into Covington-area home; driver booked with DWI


View Larger Map

I'm finally starting to get the hang of some of this Web 2.0 stuff. The area this occurred in is heavily residential. You could go faster than the posted 15-25mph limit, but you're better off not doing so. Never mind trying to drive through there drunk... the roads are too narrow and the dropoffs into the ditches are too sharp.

Nevertheless, some idiot (Frederick Vairin, 45, Covington area) decided to do just that, and apparently mistook one of the houses for part of the roadway. Makes me wonder if he was one of St. Tammany's many failed reclamation projects (a.k.a. fourth-offense DWIs), but regardless... it's kind of ridiculous... idiotic... local... Perfect blog material. :P

More highway albums up

As the title says. I've got a few more albums up, these of some of the state highways in the parish. (All links open in a new window or tab, depending on your browser's settings.)

LA 36 - Mostly of sights from where other highways terminate along it, and of the traffic circle in Abita Springs.
LA 59 - Some shots from the southern terminus, the LA 1088 terminus, some from Abita, and of the traffic circle in Abita Springs. (Is there an echo in here?)
LA 1087 - Shots from along the useless state highway cutting through the center of Old Mandeville.
LA 1088 - Hey look, I can see my house from here! Also, some shots from both termini and from the overpass.
LA 3228 - Three shots along LA 3228 (Old US 190, Old LA 25) in Mandeville.

Also, Operation Coordinates is 100% complete.

...No, not Calbog's abortion, I mean that all photos on my Picasa are geotagged. Each one's got coordinates.

...And yet another way to post photos...

Taking a hint from the Rt. Hon. Herr Doktor Comrade Mister Otto Yamamoto, I decided to start posting to Picasa. Seems to be a better fit for me than Flickr, although I'll still use both for road pics in the future.

At the least, I can actually separate the pictures by highway designation instead of just highway types on my Picasa page, due to Flickr's free account limit of three sets. So, specific highways will link from the Picasa instead.

Without further ado, since a global embargo on the stuff's really screwing me over, here's a list of what's done so far (which will also be listed in the Permalink section of this blog):

US 11 - Bayou Sauvage, Irish Bayou, Slidell and Pearl River areas, mostly pics from northbound
US 51 - Nothing special, just the Tickfaw area along southbound
US 90 - Westbound from US 190's eastern terminus to US 11's southern terminus
US 190 - Mostly eastbound, mostly in Mandeville, but includes shot of the eastern terminus in White Kitchen
US 190-Y - Otherwise known as Business US 190 in Slidell

As well, the way I do my site will be redone once my Picasa's fully populated.

(Also, as an aside, I'm going to be needing a ride to make Froggie's meet in Slidell on Labor Day weekend, so comment if you can help a girl out.)

05 August 2008

Nvidia, ATI... and now Intel?! Enter Larrabee.

BBC - Intel unveils graphics chip line

For a long time, when one puts "Intel" and "graphics" together, you usually come up with some integrated piece-of-crap graphics setup and decide to get a Nvidia or ATI addon GPU instead. Now Intel's leaping into the addon GPU field. Details have been unveiled on Intel's Larrabee chipset for addon GPUs. Larrabee is expected to be multi-core, but a specific number's not known yet.

Although Intel will be releasing the chip into the PC graphics card market, they also expect greater things from it, such as aiding oil exploration, financial services and medical imaging in the future. The recent trend for scientists is to use coupled GPUs in place of a standalone supercomputer, and this trend seems to be what Intel's aiming for.

More details about Larrabee are slated to be revealed sometime during the Siggraph conference from August 12th to the 15th.

I'll say this much, it's a promising development, and one for open-source advocates to keep an eye on. Intel's had decent support for Linux for a while, and if these GPUs work as well with it as some of their other chipsets, it could prove to be a win for more than Intel.

Covington: LA 21 widening in the works


Nola.com - Widening of LA 21 to begin in the fall

So it appears another badly-congested stretch of a major highway is going to get an inadequate fix. LA 21 south of Covington is going to be widened from three lanes (one travel lane in each direction and a turn lane in the center) to four (two travel lanes in each direction plus a median). If you check the map on the link, you'll see that the widening is only slated to go as far northeast as Marigold Drive. That's about a mile short of the place that desperately needs widening - the Tchefuncte River bridge at the edge of Covington's city limits. It's only two lanes, and even with trucks diverted to alternate routes, it still carries way too much traffic for (essentially) a two-lane highway. Even with the bridge approaches only having one travel lane in each direction (and the turn lane), it still manages to become a chokepoint as it sheds the turn lane.

This is just another symptom of LaDOTD and the Parish Government not knowing how the hell to think ahead. Instead of thinking ahead, they only think about the now, if that! If there's an average daily count of 50,000 on a road with the capacity for 10,000, they'll only build the capacity up to 50,000. Then immediately after construction, traffic counts leap again to 75,000 on a road built for 50,000. (Not actual numbers in the preceding two sentences.) So they're stuck needing even more capacity on a brand new surface and configuration. It happened with US 190 directly north of I-12 when it was widened from 4 lanes to 6. It was congested badly before, and the new configuration still can't quite cope with the traffic levels. It's also the case with the ongoing work on US 190 in Mandeville. At the western end of the roadwork, US 190 goes in a one mile stretch from four lanes + median to three lanes, to TWO lanes across an old bridge, back to a proposed four lanes + median. They left a chokepoint in the plans intentionally because they couldn't build a second bridge across Bayou Chinchuba for whatever reason.

Getting back to LA 21, the rest of it, all the way to 11th Street in Covington at least, will also see widening, including the bridge. That'll take another two to three years, meaning the chokepoint will be worse in that span than it already is. Why not just do it all in one fell swoop?

We wonder why our roads are rated so low nationally, well... this is a prime reason for it.

04 August 2008

Sometimes jackassery gets old...

I'm normally the type to just sit on IRC 24/7 and idle for most of it. I do so on a couple of other networks, but recently Poologski has decided to troll and spam the hell out of #roadgeek, using endless proxies to connect, evade bans and ignores alike, and generally just piss off the users. This course of action, of course, is the bane of any channel operator or IRCOp. Even one with limitless patience or a dark sense of humor like myself.

So instead of vegging out to the sound of the radio, chatting with the Comrade and working on web material or some bit of code to make the Linux box run more smoothly, I have to deal with a jackass who cannot take the hint that he is NOT WANTED THERE. Kickbanning a lamer is the most fun part of IRC for me, but having to do it several times in a 15-minute span to the same idiot takes all the fun out of it.

Put simply, I tire of it. If his plan is to annoy, it's working. I'm getting tired of loser mouthbreathing little wannabe trolls/spamtards making a chatroom a nightmare and forcing nightly clearouts.

It makes me wonder if a move is needed... I don't want to rock the boat, just putting an idea out there.

03 August 2008

Great, now they've got me Flickring...

Ok, so I feel lame, and yet not. Maybe sleep would help.

In the meantime, I got a LOT of snaps today, as well as the ones from last week. I'm talking like 120 of them, taken, cropped and fix0rd in one day. They'll go up on my Photobucket and Accueil sometime during the week, but they're on my Flickr right this minute if you need instant gratification. They're mostly placed by sets for the time being.

I'll be adding the older snaps to the Flickr page as time permits as well.

(Sorry. Lotsa tags apply here.)

Drunk Eddie: No record on file

Times-Picayune - Causeway stop exposed mayor's 'ghost' license plate

Back to my favorite subject around here, it's another post about Drunk Eddie!

So, you see, Drunk Eddie doesn't really exist. He has no record on file... oh, wait. His car doesn't really exist, or more accurately, its registration doesn't exist. This is yet another example of the abuses going on in Mandeville - the abuse of "ghost plates."

Ghost plates are a tool most commonly used for and meant primarily for undercover investigations. Simply give the car a false registration, feed in some fake info, and voila, your undercover has an identity that even shows when you run the plates. However, Drunk Eddie's SUV also has a ghost plate.

Chief Enabler Buell tried explaining that several city vehicles used by public officials have the ghost plates in case they're needed for an undercover op. Right. MPD has some unmarked vehicles set to go with the ghost plates that are meant for undercover. They don't need the officials' vehicles for that. In fact, the last time an official vehicle was used for an undercover op was "a long time ago" (according to the Enabler.) Almost every other local agency in the area (city and town governments) doesn't use these plates for any local officials' vehicles. Some even go as far as adding the city/town/parish seal to these vehicles. (At least, this is according to what the Picayune found out. Take it with a grain of salt if you must.)

However, many official city vehicles have the ghost plates, when they should have public plates.

Of course, now Drunk Eddie's SUV is among those with a government seal on it, and it's supposed to eventually gain public plates, like it was supposed to have in the first place. Just as soon as he completes his 13-step program and becomes Sober Eddie, that is. (Like that'll stick.)

Fact is, since Drunk Eddie's ride was off the grid, just how much did he screw up on the roads, with no record due to the plate? No one will know.

All I can say is that this cannot continue. He needs to get himself out of office yesterday.

02 August 2008

Lafayette seems busy lately...

The Advocate (Acadiana bureau) - Traffic tickets plummet since cameras installed

(You happy now, Anthony?)

*cough* Ok, so the outsourced revenue-takers aren't raking in the funds like they should. People appear to be catching wise. (And if that's the case, why is it that every day the Advertiser's website seems to have 45767443570237 new pictures of red-light-cam violators?)

Aha. You saw the dirty "o" word. Outsourced. This traffic camera revenue machine reeks to me much worse than every major company's outsourcing of work. At least with companies like Dell, the outsourced work isn't out to steal your money. (Ok, they steal your jobs, which indirectly steals your money... but anyway.)

This outsourcing is even more insidious, though. Run a light, get a letter in the mail. You're guilty, of course, so you need to pay the Corporation. Consequences? No, just pay the Corporation now, little Sheep. Wait. You're not guilty? Too bad. No due process for you, silly Sheep. Pay up, there is no other option.

It's one thing to be outsourcing tech support, it's another to outsource the LAW, especially with technology that can't get it right sometimes. Suppose someone takes the Deathmaschine to Lafayette and decides to make one of the Advertiser's vids. Also suppose that that person who took the car is not me, in no way could be confused with me... yeah, you get my drift. Totally not me. Guess who the outsourced revenue takers would mail and harass? Yep. Me.

At the least, in the same situation but with a flesh-and-blood Revenue Taker, they'd actually pull the person over and realize it's not me, but actually Calrog in a dress or something. The actual "who" of the equation is unimportant. I would probably never even know about this unless the Takers thought my car was stolen. Needless to say that I wouldn't see hide nor hair of any ticket. The system, stacked against us all and broken horribly as it is, would work.

With the cam, though, I've got a ticket to pay for a drive I never even took. Where's the justice in that? Where's the legality?

Sometimes they nail the right target and that Sheep happily feeds the Corporation's coffers, rightfully so, but it's when they get it wrong that the whole experiment falls apart.

Of course, someone's suing over this hypothetical scenario and a couple of little Constitutional issues as well. It's how we do things these days in Amerika, you know. Don't like something? Sue it or them. Like I said, these cameras and the subsequent way in which You Are Simply Guilty via a civil, not criminal process seems to run afoul of things like constitutional guarantees that you get to confront witnesses, the ability to refute evidence, or holding the government to a "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard. There's also some question to the legality of using the mail for this.

Aside from that, there's also no way to really check up on the Corporation here. The system in Lafayette operates "off the books," supposedly. There's no public accountability for the Corporation. What a surprise there...

Lastly, is this really happening at all? Guess the source of the material in the linked news article. No, really, guess. I'll be waiting here while your brain churns.

.........

Finally figured it out? Redflex and some employees of the City put out the news release. The Corporation pats their own back. The City stands idly by, smiling, all the while with their thumbs up their asses while the Corporation "diverts" the funds of the populace into their own pockets.

At this point, I don't care if they hire more Revenue Extractors... sorry, more police... just get RID of these cameras and the law-circumventing Corporation.

01 August 2008

...At least we're not Montana.

The Advocate: La. second worst in highway deaths

Where do I begin? Who are the first the state blames for this ranking? Drunks. Everyone's favorite whipping boy of course, including mine. (I'm still watching you, Drunk Eddie.) Of course, they're always a problem. And of course, some of these drunks are the Men In Charge, getting second, third and fiftieth chances by the Catch-and-Release arm of the Good Ol' Boy Network. Even those who just kiss the asses of the Men In Charge get caught and released with a signed apology in one hand and a bottle of vodka in the other. And they kill. Sometimes they put themselves in the running for a Darwin Award, but a lot of the time they kill someone else in the process, or instead of themselves.

I'm really not going to shed a tear when some idiotic twenty-something downs a case of beer, decides to take a drive to chase the pink elephant, then wraps their car around a telephone pole. No. I'll shed a tear when they wrap themselves around a minivan with a mother and four kids, all killed on impact.

Where else can they set the blame? How about at the feet of people who don't use their seat belts... another prime scapegoat. Of course, we all know the government mandates this behavior, but like most behaviors mandated by the Men In Charge and the lobbyists who pull their strings, the people don't care. Because, as we all know, it's our God-Given right to splatter our heads all over the Interstate when something goes wrong. Excuse me for not exercising it - suicidal as I am, sometimes I prefer living. That and gruesome automotive death isn't my thing.

It makes me wonder, though... if you're not wearing a seatbelt, you're not anchored to the car, so of course you drive just a little more carefully, watching a bit more. Often one is at her most defensive when she's unprotected.

Strap yourself in, on the other hand, and you don't have to worry about that violent left-hander knocking you into the passenger door. Of course, you flip yourself over into a ditch or get clipped by the guy coming from the other way. She who feels protection from the repercussions often lashes out recklessly.

Safety breeding unsafe conditions? Think about it a little bit. On with the entry.

Not mentioned in the article, I'll throw in the following - idiots who operate their motorcycles without helmets. Sure, the cagers have to wear their seat belts, but motorcyclists don't have to use helmets. Or do they? Seems each and every new governor around here changes that law as one of their first bill-signings in their term. Regardless, the number of them getting their heads busted like eggs on the pavement has to factor in to it somewhere.

Let's not forget the other white meat, SFB's. (Stone Headed Idiot Talking, Forgetting Operational Rules, But Running Automobile In Nagging Stupidity - put the capital letters together, each comma makes a new word, and you'll figure it out. Thanks MLOM.) They're almost as bad as the drunks at times. Everything I said about the drunks can be applied to these geniuses on an almost interchangable basis. If you've got your hands full as it is dealing with stupidity-inducing city traffic, do you really need to be on a phone as well? It's not quite as annoying on long and endless stretches of highway connecting Nowhere with B.F.E., but when there's more cars on a block of roadway than exist in the entire state of Rhode Island, you should really put the goddamned phone down and drive. 'Kay?

Of course, the article also blames the roads themselves. The bridges suck, the roads are rough, yadda yadda yadda, $14 billion backlog, blah blah blah. Couldn't we start doing something about that one of these days, preferably before my hypothetical children start getting grey hairs? They're not going to fix themselves. Instead of passing more nonsense laws and diverting money to projects with their own funding or those government has no business funding, can't we put that towards making the highways safer? Can't we put that towards widening and shoring up a bridge instead of feeding the pockets of do-nothing Men In Charge and their handlers?

Oh, wait. I forgot this is Louisiana. Always in excess, except when it could help someone other than the Politician or his Master. Because they need that money to show just how much Better Than You they are, more than you need a safe highway. I'm so glad we've got our priorities straight around here. It's enough to drive me to drink...

(Don't worry, I hid my car keys from myself.)

In this state, for the longest time, someone would say how crap we are in some national ranking, and the people would just sigh and say "at least we're not Mississippi" or "at least we're not Texas." I guess now they'll just shrug and use the new saying meaning "we're inept, who cares?"

But hey, at least we're not Montana.

29 July 2008

Observations, on and off the roads

Yesterday, I needed to make a run up to one of Louisiana's remaining "charity hospitals" to get a literal pain in my ass (more like my thigh) treated. What passes for healthcare for the poor and working poor in this state is a disgrace. I got in at about 11 AM. I got out close to 6 PM. One reason was that in a fairly busy emergency room, there was only ONE doctor. Just one, to handle about 35-40 people with varying problems.

Part of this is culture. Since many people in this state don't qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, but don't earn enough to afford or aren't offered (as a job benefit or something) a private plan, they just go to the emergency room for the most minor of ailments. It's been this way since the Dawn of Time around here (as in, since my grandparents were little children, at least). This clogs them up when moderate and major emergencies happen, as must have happened during the day during my wait.

Another part of this is less people going into medical professions. LSU runs the hospital I went to, and it seemed badly short-staffed, especially with only having one doctor in the emergency room during the day.

Cost seems to be at fault on all ends, at least from my viewpoint.

I also noticed a few things about the roads, so don't fret.
  • Business US 51 in Hammond is getting a facelift. It looks like they're redoing (or at least smoothing) the concrete surface, and they're replacing the suicide center turn lane with a raised median and "classic" turn lanes.
  • I don't think they'll ever put up gates at the railroad tracks for all the minor crossing roads in Tangipahoa Parish. Fine. But could they at least put up STOP SIGNS?! A lot of them are regulated only by yield signs, for crying out loud. As such, I predict many more "train vs. car" articles in the blog, and much more senseless death.
  • Work is proceeding on Interstate 12 near LA 21 for (unofficial and ESTIMATED) Future Exit 61. When complete, this interchange will serve two functions - it will link to a new shopping center, as well as linking in an auxiliary manner to LA 21. (They tore down a rest area and a fairly decent park for this. Assholes. Seriously. What The F*ck?)
  • Work is complete on LA 22 in Mandeville. The new configuration is two lanes westbound, a center turning lane and one eastbound lane from the shopping center with the Rouses in it westward to the Beau Chene main entrance. West of there to the Marina entrance, it's two westbound lanes and one eastbound lane.
  • The surface of Interstate 55 is horrible for taking snaps. Still, I managed to gut out the pain enough to get a few. Filled my digital camera's memory in the process. Looks like I'll need to snag a SD card. (Or get the camera working with altaria so I can offload them on the fly.)
  • Many stoplights in Mandeville were either flashing red/yellow or depowered entirely yesterday, although they seemed to be brought back on line quickly.
  • US 190 through Old Mandeville has shifted to the future eastbound lanes, as they work now on the future center and westbound lanes. I'm waiting for businesses on the north side of the highway to bitch that customers can't get to them now.
I did take a few pictures while I was out, I just need to make them a little more viewable, then I'll post them online. That'll happen either today or sometime this week.

Edit: Noted in no uncertain terms that the possible exit number for the future exit is estimated and not official. -T