31 May 2008

Westbank, LA: 23-car pileup sends 18 to hospital

Times-Picayune - Mud spill in tunnel puts 23 cars into pileup
A dump truck with an unsecured load spilled thick mud in the westbound lanes of the Harvey Tunnel on Friday afternoon, causing a chain-reaction 23-car pileup that sent 18 people to hospitals and shut down the tunnel for hours.

No serious injuries were reported in the accident, which happened about 1 p.m. Witnesses inside the tunnel said they saw the back gate of the dump truck swing open. The slippery clay mud that poured out quickly coated the roadway, causing cars to lose control and careen into the tunnel walls and other vehicles.

Eighteen people, including a pregnant woman, were taken to hospitals, said State Police spokesman Joseph Piglia. It was the largest pileup in the Harvey Tunnel in decades.

Late Friday afternoon, State Police were still trying to locate the driver of the dump truck. Piglia said police had leads from witnesses. The driver could face charges for driving with an unsecured load, and could be held liable for tunnel damage.

Workers from the state Department of Transportation and Development were cleaning up the mud, almost a foot thick in some places, once the cars were removed, using sweepers and sand to break up the chunks. Buzzy Wegener, the highway department's assistant district administrator of operations for New Orleans, said the accident caused no major damage to the tunnel walls.

Call boxes in the tunnel meant to alert State Police during accidents may have been inoperable at the time, the highway department spokesman Mark Lambert said. He said the company that installed the boxes no longer makes the parts, and the agency cannot guarantee they will work.

Both the eastbound and westbound lanes were closed through the afternoon. The eastbound lanes reopened about 5:30 p.m., and westbound lanes were open by early evening.
...What is wrong with this picture? Sure, there's been lots of cases of unsecured loads on the highways since Katrina. A few of them have been fatal, one of which involved an unsecured ladder on a truck traveling on I-12 coming loose and impaling an vehicle traveling behind it like the famous arrow from Robin Hood.

That said, this is different. On the Interstate, you can pull off the road into the median or the ditch if something like that were to happen. Not so in tunnels, most certainly that specific tunnel. More caution is needed when going through a tunnel, not just for yourself but for the people tailing you. I'd love to know just what the hell possessed this idiot to do this. Vehicles like that shouldn't be allowed in the tunnel when there's a perfectly good freeway running overhead. Most places with a shred of common sense ban trucks like that from tunnels, especially with viable alternatives in play such as freeways or even decent arterial roads.

Also, they need to fix the damned callboxes. Not everybody has a cellphone, and even for those who do, not all of them work in a setting like a tunnel. Pay phones may be obsolete, but callboxes still have some purpose. They signal for help in a situation of distress, be it running out of gas or the extreme of a 23-car pileup with multiple injuries. True, they would not have prevented this calamity, but they can prevent others. Let's start thinking ahead, people! Instead of the same mentality that leads to "We'll only put a stoplight up at this intersection when someone dies," they should be proactive and fix something when it breaks!

This same inaction in any form of Louisiana government is also responsible for a NOPD officer plunging into the water when barriers and lighting failed to work as a drawbridge was activated. This time, there were no deaths, thankfully. Next time, we may not be so fortunate.

Still, most of the blame here falls on the nameless idiot who thought taking an unsecured load of mud through a tunnel was the Greatest Idea Ever. He should never be allowed on the road again. I hope that when he's found, he gets sued into the ground and does some jail time.

25 May 2008

Posting from the new machine

My iBook arrived via FedEx yesterday. Let's see what's all there...
  • Processor: 800 MHz PowerPC G3 750fx
  • Memory: 384MB
  • Storage: 6GB 2.5" IDE
  • Optical: Sony CD-RW/DVD-ROM
  • Expansion: FireWire 400, 2 USB 1.1
  • Networking: 56k, wired Ethernet
  • Operating System: Mac OS X 10.4.11
Ok, so it's not the most advanced bit of tech on the planet. It's going to practically require a teardown to put in a bigger hard drive (I have a 40GB waiting in the wings) and another 256MB stick of RAM (that I might be able to harvest from my Thinkpad) - best to replace both during the same teardown. As it's configured right now (hardware-wise), I can't even install Xcode, making installing necessities like irssi and mpg123 impossible due to the lack of a compiler. Also, it has to be run wired until I get ahold of a USB wireless interface (preferably with a Ralink chipset.)

Still, despite all that, I'm loving this machine. Some Linux users can't stand OS X, but once I install Xcode, I love it. I'm also looking forward to the challenge in upgrading the hardware bits on here. I could use the experience in it if I'm ever going to get people to pay me for doing this kind of stuff. (Hint, hint!!)

In keeping with the naming scheme for my previous machines, this one is known as latias.

15 May 2008

Followup: Bill on "speed traps" dead

The News Star (Monroe, LA): Bill on "speed traps" dead for session

Original entry: The effort to ban "speed traps" in Louisiana
State Rep. Hollis Downs' bill that would have cracked down on what he describes as speed traps is dead.

Downs, R-Ruston, withdrew House Bill 1050 from consideration on Wednesday when it became clear the bill wouldn't make it out of the House Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs Committee.

"It came down to the strong influence that the mayors and police chiefs and marshals have, and they didn't want it," Downs said. "The legislators had to decide whether they would support the people or the institutions, and in this case it was the institutions.

"Obviously, we're not ready as a state to get this done. It's a cash cow for these little communities."

The way I see it: Keep avoiding the speed trap towns until they dry up like raisins. I'm sorry, but you can NOT sustain a town by having so much of your revenue coming in from speeding tickets. All they're doing is condemning their towns to long and drawn-out deaths.

Better luck next year.

Lafayette: I-10 design plan presented

The Advocate (Baton Rouge): I-10 design plan presented
(from article)

...A plan for future development along Interstate 10 calls for a balance of commercial and residential areas, buffers to shield neighborhoods from traffic, and better road connections in a city not known for ease of travel.

The design proposal, presented Wednesday to a city-parish planning group, was developed by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Community Design Workshop.

The group’s plan addresses how best to guide the development expected to follow completion of a frontage road system along I-10 in Lafayette Parish — road work now in the early planning stage...

...The resulting land-use plan attempts to balance the desire of residents to be shielded from increased traffic and the desire of business owners for increased visibility.

The plan includes provisions for green belts between neighborhoods and new roads, such as a stand of trees that could cut noise and hide cars from the view of nearby houses.

Community Design Workshop Director Thomas Sammons said sound walls were discussed, but most residents were more interested in vegetative buffers.

“We want to be buffered, but we don’t want to be walled in,” he said...

...The design workshop’s I-10 plan comes as city-parish government is studying several options for frontage roads along the interstate.

Planners are also considering a redesign of the I-10/I-49 interchange.

Let's go with the last line first. A redesign of the I-10/I-49 interchange is badly needed... even more so if Future I-49 South takes the current routing of US 90 and 167 through the city. Right now, it's a cloverleaf, and it's already straining to handle traffic, especially SB I-49 to EB I-10. The weaving on it is unbelievable. If another Interstate connection is made from the south, it will become completely inadequate to handle the task. A stack would be a much better option for that interchange. Better to get it done now before I-49 South is built.

Now, as to the rest. I've driven that corridor a decent bit. Right now, east of I-49, it's beautiful. Due to the fact that downtown Lafayette exists south of I-10, most of the natural splendor of the corridor is still there. Go west of I-49, and you see more development along the interstate. There's not too much of it, however. A lot of the natural beauty still exists. Traffic counts are a bit heavy east of I-49, somewhat lighter west of it. There's not too much reason to stop there, though. Sure, you can go south or west from the I-10/I-49/US 167 interchange and explore Cajun country, but as for Lafayette itself, it has few attractions in any position to draw in traffic from the Interstates.

Acadiana is one of the greatest scenic regions in the entire state of Louisiana. While development is needed in the Lafayette region, especially for interconnectivity, they need to be careful in how they develop.

If they do it right, it'll be beneficial for all. Let's hope they can.

Yay, excitement. Or is that excrement?

You know, I must be a prophet or something. I complained in a comment on The Experience that Racist Roadsine Randy was getting more boring than CalBog. Thing is, the comment hadn't been released for public consumption yet. Mebbe he's got voodoo powers.

Well, either way, he's back and he's pissed. Basically, he posts four links in MTR to a New Jersey news site about various things that (African-Americans) do... killing a baby, shooting a guy in the leg outside of an IHOP, committing suicide during a traffic stop... you get the point, it gets pretty bad. The problem here is that he doesn't realize that people of all colors and creeds are capable of some really sick stuff. He should start looking at everything, not just the stories that further his own twisted beliefs. Plus, he doesn't look at the good people are capable of. Then again, most of the time, that's not news. You hear about the murders, rapes and robberies, but you rarely hear about the Good Samaritans, the charitable or the valiant. Crime sells.

Looks like Randy bought into it, big-time. Almost makes me pity the guy. He, himself is capable of great things... but this racist attitude of his just drags him down in the eyes of his peers. Shame, that.

14 May 2008

This isn't news.

Well, I broke down. I priced out how much it would cost to fix the Deathmaschine, and I bought a used iBook G3 800MHz. I might tackle fixing the car sometime next month. It can't be that hard to replace a radiator... right? Please tell me it's not that hard.

...Okay, fine, I'll ditch the "defenseless girl" act...

That's all for now. Road news is sloooooow around here...

09 May 2008

Wait, what? Computer news?! In MY roadblog?

Release Candidate for Wine 1.0 Announced (thanks to Amber for bringing me this info)

Whatever happened to the "We'll only release Wine 1.0 when everything works perfectly" philosophy? Among many notable programs that still don't work, I can count Photoshop CS3 (and almost any other Adobe product), SAM (a Shoutcast/Icecast source) and other notable programs that could finally cause me to stop having at least one machine have a working Windows partition.

Or, even better... those companies could start releasing ports of their software to non-Windows/Mac platforms... oh, right... nobody uses Linux (from their perspective.)

LA: Road chief says program bankrupt

The Advocate (Baton Rouge): Road Chief says program bankrupt
(from article)

Louisiana’s road-building agenda will suffer because a special program for 16 projects has gone bankrupt, state Transportation Secretary William Ankner said Thursday.

In addition, the state’s list of highway projects is under new pressure because gasoline tax revenue that helps pay for the work is down 7 percent, Ankner said.

The decrease in gasoline taxes stems from less driving amid higher gasoline prices, he said.

“It will probably carry forward in future years,” Ankner said of the revenue dip.

Ankner made his comments to the Joint Transportation Committee and in an interview afterward.

It all centers around a package of projects approved by voters in 1989, the Transportation Infrastructure Model for Economic Development, or TIMED. Instead of managing this themselves, LaDOTD hired an outside firm to manage these projects. (Outside management's screwed up the Road Home, too.) Now the costs have spiraled far above what they would have originally been, partially due to inflation of course, but also due to the impact on prices from hurricanes and the rising costs of steel and concrete, as well as a dearth of firms that actually do bridge work.

As a result of this, the Transportation Secretary is saying that it might take diversions of $66 million a year from the fund for other road improvements to keep the TIMED projects afloat.

Ironically, gas prices are proving to be a double whammy for the funding. Not only does the higher cost of fuel cause the prices of materials to go up, but the prices are causing people in Louisiana to buy less gas, meaning less revenue from the gas tax to go directly into funding.

The roads in the state are degrading steadily, and many have been neglected for too long. For every Future I-49, LA 1 corridor and I-10 Twin Span replacement, there's a main highway through a small town in such bad shape that the town would be better serviced by a gravel road, or a two lane highway straining to carry more cars than a six lane highway can capably handle. We need our roads fixed, plain and simple.

The money's not going to be coming in so reliably from the fuel taxes as fuel prices rise and more people buy less to conserve their own money, so there's got to be other sources of funding. Maybe instead of the Legislature voting themselves a fourfold raise for part-time work, they should put that money towards the highways. Also, Louisiana gets a good bit of money from oil development, and the high price of oil is actually a boon to the state budget. Maybe we could put some of that toward the roads, too.

Until then, we might as well get comfortable at the bottom. We'll be here a while.

It's that time again... it's Just Plain Wrong!

Thanks, Scott.

It's Just Plain Wrong!

...What is this, Grand Theft Auto: Sweden?

06 May 2008

Speaking of Mandeville... WTF?!

(This post may not be of much interest to those outside of Louisiana or the Gulf Coast region... you are hereby warned - T.)

Times-Picayune - Mandeville mayor issued ticket 2 weeks after crash

Oh, God, they're all alike down here, the politicians... doesn't really matter which side of the lake they're on. He got drunk, rammed a toll booth barrier in a city-owned luxury SUV, and then it took two weeks for the bridge cops to issue a ticket? This is after the city police chief and the mayor got into hot water about misuse of charity funds... and a city-owned luxury guzzler? The town's been into renewal and environmental stuff since the guy took office, yet they lean so far right otherwise. "Family values" this, "limted government" that... but don't you DARE propose to pave over a wetland. There's so much hypocrisy in this place it's not even funny, yet I can't stop laughing. Makes me glad I officially live in an unincorporated part of the parish.

Still, I go into town, I spend money there (mostly on booze and photo development), and so I have every right to gripe. Price should get booted out of office, as should Buell and Loicano. They should also take Price's license away in the process. (Didn't the state pass "tougher" DUI penalties a while back that involve automatic suspensions?) They're all textbook examples of the cronyism, favoritism and corruption around here. Speak up and you won't even be able to work at a fast-food place... which could be life-shattering in a parish with such a high cost of living. Worse, you might suddenly find yourself slapped with some BS charge that just as equally ruins your life. Keep your mouth shut and you just might get to keep your job, or at least your quality of life. That's SOP around here - all it takes is one unfavorable word from the "haves" and your life is screwed. Shame, really.

We are part of a metropolitan area that gets more than enough bad press from the people in charge on the other side of the lake, what with Nagin's weekly racist comments and incompetency and Broussard (the Jefferson Parish president) attracting bad press like a magnet. None of these idiots should be helping to further damage the reputation of this region. Bad enough it's on life support as it is. This region still has a lot to offer in natural splendor, history, culture and industry (oil, seafood, Michoud, etc...) We're pissing it away by remaining silent and allowing "business as usual" to continue.

And yeah, I consider DUI as "road-related" news. The rest is just icing and built-up disbelief over "the system." Still, I'll try to find something more road (or computer) related for the next post.

05 May 2008

You knew this was coming... plus RARE black and white LA highway shield!

The time you, my two readers, have all feared... it has come to pass. I went out today, and while the primary reason was to go buy cigarettes, I had an ulterior motive as well... I took pictures. Pictures of sines, of roadwork and termini of my current locale... a place called Mandeville. Be very afraid. Yuppies and MFFYs will devour your soul here.

The pictures were all taken with a disposable 35mm camera, so I apologize now for a lack of quality. We can't all be rich.

Here's the promised B&W Louisiana highway shield (click to zoom):

Click here for all the pics from today... I've provided descriptions there, but if I screwed up a description, let me know by posting a comment here on the blog.

Another Airline Highway wreck...

Times-Picayune - LaPlace wreck kills 2, injures 2

Let me paint a picture of Airline Highway (US 61) through that area. Four lanes of early US Highway construction in Louisiana, meaning there is next to no median... maybe if you're lucky, there's a double-sided guardrail masquerading as a jersey barrier, or 2 feet of grass between the carriageways. Yet there's still idiots who use the road and think it's a freeway - a typical mindset in Louisiana.

Now, this wreck is tragic, indeed. What makes it sadder is that driver impairment wasn't a factor. You can't blame booze or drugs for this one. Instead, we have a speeder to blame. I'm worried S&DDAM will have a field day with this one if he finds out... and I'd have to agree with him.

People have got to start realizing Airline Highway, like a lot of other 4-lane thoroughfares around here, is NOT an Interstate. You can't just do 70 down it and expect nothing bad to happen.