26 May 2009

Suicide on the CCC

Times-Picayune - Man kills himself by jumping from Crescent City Connection

At approximately 7 a.m. CDT, a young man pulled his car up onto the eastbound Crescent City Connection bridge. He soon shut his car off, exited it and went over to the side of the bridge. Showing absolutely no hesitation, he jumped, ending his life near the corner of Lawrence and Teche streets when he landed.

Things are going very wrong in the area as of late, with all the political scandal and incompetence, but this event is a stark reminder that real people are suffering, too. Many are being injured or killed on the streets at the hands of others, many of those offenders being the ones we forget, the ones we fail.

So, too, this man could have been another of those, another that we as a society have failed. No one is sure as of yet. No identification was found on the body, and even if they did find ID in the car, no info has been released yet.

It is not the manner of death which causes me to raise my voice today. Suicide is, sadly, common in this world. Usually, it is a very heart-wrenching decision for the person attempting it, this I can say from experience, having attempted suicide myself in the past. Thoughts run rampantly through one's head at that ultimate point as one wonders what is left to live for. Some, like me, pull back and decide not to die. Some choose to live. (There's a difference, trust me.) Then there are the ones for whom the only choice is death, so they go through with it.

Everyone deliberates the decision at the critical moment. Most of the time, it's at the point where the very next choice - to jump or not to jump - to fire or not to fire - takes place. It's on the bridge. It's standing there with the gun in one's hand.

Whatever deliberation was made in this case, it was made long before reaching the point to jump. There was nothing that could have been done... it is what makes this case all the more disheartening.

The future of the state is leading to more circumstances like these. There will be more times in the future where nothing can be done, even if the person can be talked down from the critical moment. There's a reason. The quality and frequency of mental health care in the state of Louisiana has been in shambles since even before Katrina, and now it threatens to only get worse.

The state is cutting mental health care. They're closing a major center in New Orleans, and consolidating care in the area to the Northshore. This simply won't work. True, the center they're consolidating to is in better condition than the one being abandoned in New Orleans, but this won't help matters. A vital component to mental health care is engaging the loved ones of the patient, somehow. Most of the time, visitation helps.

So how is it helping them to send them somewhere out of reach of the loved ones? Those with means have no need for centers like this, for they're most likely to secure and afford private care long before institutionalization becomes necessary. No, most of the people ending up in a state-run inpatient center will be the indigent and poor. How many of these people's loved ones will even be able to make it to the Northshore? These are the same people who had to hop on a bus provided by government money to evacuate from Gustav because they simply didn't have the means to run when their own lives were at stake.

Consolidation isn't the answer. If the center in New Orleans was in as bad a shape as they were saying, they need to improve it, or open a new center in town... not close the only lifeline some have and move it across the Lake.

We need more money for this, not less. I'm sure if we cut all government salaries some and wiped out the waste that exists all over the state, we could pour some into improvements in New Orleans, and elsewhere in the state.

It won't happen, of course. More people will have less options when the critical moment arrives, and more will die. As someone mired in poverty in Louisiana and not getting any care for mental illness, I could very well be one of them one day. (Note: Not a suicide threat - T.)

And the state will be responsible for every life lost in this way.

13 May 2009

So, how will they fund I-49 South?

The Advocate (Acadiana Bureau) - I-49 task force debates funding

It's about time people started to try to figure out how to fund the thing, you know. So far, it's looking like tolls could be on the table. (Gack.) Obviously, there's also a need to obtain more support from the Legislature and Congress, to push the corridor as more of a priority.

First things first - tolls won't work. Ever. Not in Acadiana. The traffic volumes might be worth an Interstate, but they'll never support a toll road, especially in a part of the state that has none currently. The locals and the sugarcane farmers hate the idea of tolls. Tolling would be a non-starter. They could exempt some traffic from the tolls, but then that defeats the purpose of tolling the thing in the first place... especially if they exempt agricultural vehicles.

Still, they're considering multiple options. Good for them - you can't count on anything as a sole way to fund a project as huge as the I-49 southern extension.

Another option floated by the task force would be special tax districts along the corridor and an extra tax on gasoline along the route. I see many potholes in that approach. The most significant is that the "special tax district" would have to be statewide, otherwise people would start to dodge it by fueling in jurisdictions outside the tax district. I know I would. I don't know about you, but I can make it from Lafayette to New Orleans via the current US 90 corridor on about half a tank, and that's in an early 90's midsize Buick. My Civic could make the trip on less. That means I can gas up in Lake Charles, Alexandria, Baton Rouge or Slidell and dodge fueling on the corridor entirely. (Either that, or I could take I-10.)

Oops, I said that out loud. That's another problem with any usage- or consumption-based tax along the corridor, that being that I-10 is shorter, and in conjunction with I-12 is shorter still. With many tollways, you can get traffic that is simply aiming to go through the tolled route as well as the traffic that has to actually go somewhere along the toll road, and the other options suck as far as traffic or expediency goes. (See: Pennsylvania Turnpike.) The fact that Future I-49 is already bypassed by a superior routing for traffic bound for points east and west means that you don't get that traffic that would be going to/from, say, Houston or Biloxi (unless they originate/end locally), and therefore you can't get toll money from them.

And even then, there's a (State) Constitutional ban that stops local entities from levying a gasoline tax. It'd take legislative action to override that problem, and the Legislature's never liked local-option gas taxes. That sure as hell ain't changing with Guv'nuh Bobby "No Taxes EVAR!!1" Jindal pulling the strings.

These are all inventive options, mind you, but the old standby is still out there: state and federal funding. It's how we normally make Interstates around here. The only problem with that option currently is that the state is damn near broke, considering all the cuts the Governor is saying we need to make to state programs. The Feds ain't in much better shape, multiple stimuli and bailouts on demand aside.

All that said, work is still proceeding slowly along the corridor. Several overpasses built in St. Mary and Iberia Parishes over the past decade are bringing the corridor closer to Interstate standards. An overpass is currently being built at LA 675 in Iberia Parish, and stim funding is paying for an interchange to be built elsewhere in Iberia. The governor's proposed putting about $10 million in the budget for another overpass in St. Mary. These areas aren't the real hangup - the real hangup that I've seen so far from traveling the highway would be the area from Raceland east to about Marrero, covering Des Allemands, Paradis, Boutte and other places along that routing. Some of it is so cramped, bypassing part of the route may be inevitable - which will definitely make the state coffers bleed as a lot of it would need to be elevated.

In all, progress is slow on the Future Interstate. It's going to take time. Middle ground must be found - not only a source of funding, but a good source of funding that will fit the circumstances of the routing itself.

05 May 2009

End Of The Earth UPD*TE, Part 3

Another day, more photos uploaded...


LA 1 (Southbound): 36 pictures between Mathews and Grand Isle.


I-55: Added six pictures of northbound at various points near Ponchatoula and Hammond
US 51: Added three pictures of southbound in Hammond, from LA 1040 to the merge with I-55
Business US 51: Added northbound coverage between I-55 and US 190. Added southbound coverage of the concurrency with US 190. Geotagged the album.
LA 22: Added three pictures of westbound from the concurrency with Business US 51 in Ponchatoula

The rest of the To-Do list will have to wait yet another day.

04 May 2009

End Of The Earth UPD*TE, Part 2

Follow-up to last post.


US 190: Added 27 pictures of eastbound between I-55 in Hammond and LA 25 in Covington. Added two post-construction pics of eastbound at the LA 59/LA 1087 intersection in Mandeville. Added one pic of westbound of a sign recently added at the LA 3228 intersection in Mandeville.

The rest of the To-Do List will have to wait for another day. I'm totally knackered right now.

03 May 2009

End Of The Earth UPD*TE, Part 1

I finally took that trip to Grand Isle that I've been threatening to do ever since I got the Buick. Out of it, I took over 290 pictures. Some are unusable, though, so I'm going through what I do have, and updating piecemeal-stylee.

Parishes: Lafourche Parish
Highways: US 51-X

Here's what I do have done.


I-310: 38 pictures. Covers both southbound and northbound all the way between I-10 and US 90. Photographically clinched, both directions.
US 51-X: AKA Business US 51 in Ponchatoula and Hammond, LA. Six pictures of southbound between LA 22 and I-55/US 51 to start - however, I also went and photographically clinched it northbound, so expect more within the next couple of days.
LA 1 (Northbound): 17 pictures. Covers LA 1 North from Grand Isle to LA 308 in Golden Meadow.

(I've decided right now to split the album into northbound and southbound from the start, as I'm predicting both albums combined may have as many as 300-500 pictures apiece by this time next year. LA 1 is longer than Longcat, after all.)


I-10: Added nine pictures of eastbound between I-55 and I-310.
I-12: Added seven pictures of the new Exit 60 signage from Friday. They're not geotagged or sorted yet.
I-55/US 51: Added 17 pictures of I-55 South and 15 pictures of US 51 South, of the concurrency between Exit 22 and LaPlace.
LA 22: Added eight pictures of westbound between LA 21 and Business US 51 South.


I-55: Got a couple of shots from northbound of the Exit 29 (I-12) complex and of the Exit 31 advance signage. Also got the brief bit of northbound between Old US 51 and Business US 51. Done!
US 51: There's a couple of stray shots in Hammond between US 51-X/190 and I-55 to add. Done!
US 51-X: Got to upload northbound, meaning a couple need cleaning. Damned fire orb in the sky. Someone please blow it up already. :P Done as it's getting for now.
Old US 51: The old road between LaPlace and Ponchatoula. I traveled it northbound. Wasn't much to see. Did take a few snaps, they'll get upped... probably last.
US 90: Need to add shots of westbound between I-310/LA 3127 and LA 1, and eastbound between LA 308 and I-310/LA 3127.
US 190: Took shots of eastbound between I-55 and LA 25. Need to sort the buggers. Also need to see if a shot in Mandeville or two needs updating. Done!
LA 1 (Southbound): Plenty of shots between US 90 and Grand Isle. Got to upload, sort and tag. (That'll be the Major Pain.) Done!
LA 22: Still got a couple more to add of the concurrency in Ponchatoula with US 51-X... and they got sunbleached. Usual BS. Done for now
LA 308: Took a few pics of that northbound, just need to clean them up.
World's Longest Continuous Viaduct: Yes, I actually do plan to make this album... call it a project, like the "Former LA 25" project that I still plan to do soon.


One More Thing: I've thought about something that could be confusing, and I want to clear it up. Notice that some of my albums of old highways are named "Old (highway)," while others are called "Former (highway)." There's actually a rationale for that.

"Old" highways: These are highways whose former designation has been rerouted, most likely to a nearby new alignment such as a bypass, or to the Interstate or something. (Examples: Old US 11 (moved to nearby I-59), Old US 190 (moved to a different alignment nearby))

"Former" highways: These are truncated or decommissioned highways, either in whole or in the part near the section labeled "Former." (Examples: Former US 65 (truncated and replaced by US 425), Former LA 1093-2 (decommissioned entirely))

Now that we've cleared that up...

01 May 2009

Alternate St. Tammany Parish Hurricane Evacuation Routes

Public services, for those who are actually planning to evacuate if a storm comes our way during hurricane season. What I'm aiming to do here is to bring attention to some local arterials that can, in a pinch, also be used for hurricane evacuation. Since my knowledge base is mostly about Northshore routes, that's where I'll be concentrating. Not trying to slight any of you near the coast or anything, but there are others who could cover that region better than me.

I don't have maps handy just yet, so I'll have to describe them in an all-text format.

West St. Tammany Alt Evacuation Route 1: LA 25

(This route can be accessed by those funneled onto US 190 West through Covington. Recommended if going west or north.)

Destination: Tylertown, MS
Connections: US 98 West TO McComb, MS (I-55, US 51), Natchez, MS (via US 84, you can then use US 61)
US 98 East TO Hattiesburg, MS (I-59, US 11), Mobile, AL (I-65, I-10 East)
MS 27, TO Vicksburg, MS (I-20, US 61, US 80)

Route: From US 190 West (Bypass) in Covington, you will be able to continue on US 190 by taking a left at a stoplight. Instead, remain on the through route. This is LA 25. This route will pass through a few small towns such as Folsom and Franklinton. Follow LA 25 through those towns. Eventually, you will reach the state line. LA 25 becomes MS 27. Follow MS 27 into Tylertown. You can either use US 98 to head east or west, or continue on MS 27 North to head toward Vicksburg.

West St. Tammany Alt Evacuation Route 2: LA 21

(This route can also be accessed via US 190 West in Covington. Recommended if going east.)

Destination: Foxworth, MS
Connections: US 98 West TO McComb, MS (I-55, US 51), Natchez, MS (via US 84, you can then use US 61)
US 98 East TO Hattiesburg, MS (I-59, US 11), Mobile, AL (I-65, I-10 East)
MS 35, TO Batesville, MS (you can then use MS 315 Scenic to reach Oxford)

Route: From US 190 West, south of Covington (three-lane section), there will be a fork, each way taking two lanes with it. You will want the right fork, which is Business US 190 West. Follow Business 190 until you reach the intersection with LA 21. Take LA 21 North (a right). Follow LA 21 North to the state line. At the state line, LA 21 becomes MS 35. Continue to follow MS 35 until it widens to four lanes; you will have reached Foxworth at that point. From there, you can use US 98 to reach McComb or Hattiesburg, or remain on MS 35 North to head to Batesville or Oxford.

East St. Tammany Alt Evacuation Route: LA 41

(This route can be accessed from US 11 in Pearl River. You may not be able to reach it from the Interstate.)

Destination: Foxworth, MS
Connections: US 98 West TO McComb, MS (I-55, US 51), Natchez, MS (via US 84, you can then use US 61)
US 98 East TO Hattiesburg, MS (I-59, US 11), Mobile, AL (I-65, I-10 East)
MS 35, TO Batesville, MS (you can then use MS 315 Scenic to reach Oxford)

Route: From US 11 North, drive north through Slidell. Continue north until you reach Pearl River. At Pearl River, take a left from US 11 North onto LA 41 North. Follow LA 41 North for its entire distance, it will end in Bush and default to LA 21 North. From there, you can use the West St. Tammany Alt Evacuation Route 2 guide for directions/instructions. The destinations are the same.


For the sake of everyone being able to get out, using US 90 East from Slidell to connect to I-10 East along the Mississippi Coast is not recommended by me. Mississippi needs their coastal routes to evacuate, too. Using the alternates to reach US 98 East can get you to Mobile, Alabama, though.


St. Tammany Alt Evacuation Route: LA 10 West

(All three of the previously mentioned alternatives junction LA 10. Just turn onto LA 10 West when you see it instead of continuing north.)

Destination: St. Francisville, LA
Connections: US 61 North TO Natchez, MS (US 84, US 425), Vicksburg, MS (I-20, US 80)
LA 10 West TO New Roads, LA (LA 1), LeBeau, LA (US 71), Washington, LA (I-49), Pickering, LA (US 171) (ferry connection required, some sections unsealed)

Route: Get onto LA 10 West from either LA 25 North in Franklinton, or LA 21 North in Bogalusa. Remain on LA 10 West until reaching US 61. From there, you should go on US 61 North to continue west. If you choose to remain on LA 10 West, there is a ferry crossing after the intersection with US 61. After the intersection with LA 1 in New Roads, some parts are unsealed. (That means gravel, folks.) Proceeding westbound past St. Francisville is not recommended by me.


There will be more of these as my research continues.

Some miles down, about seventy to go

The Advocate - I-12 work to begin

...And so it begins. The end is near for the daily gridlock at LA 3245 (O'Neal Lane) and Interstate 12. Work will begin to widen I-12 to three lanes from O'Neal Lane to just east of Pete's Highway eastbound, and from 4-H Club Road to O'Neal westbound. The hardest bit will most likely be widening the bridges crossing the Amite River - as they stand right now, they are only two lanes wide with absolutely no shoulders to speak of. I'm hoping they add some shoulders with those new travel lanes.

The project is slated to be complete by Thanksgiving 2011, meaning traffic will exceed the work done by the day after Thanksgiving 2011. Going only that far will do nothing but move the daily gridlock from O'Neal over to Denham Springs. The rest of I-12 to the east will continue to be perpetually overloaded with truckers who think they're driving Ferraris, career women weaving from the acceleration lane to the #1 lane at 90mph while fixing their makeup and sipping coffee, and unsafe vehicles carrying their nonsecure loads at ten miles under the speed limit.

In other words, this is where I again advocate for the entirety of I-12 to be widened to no less than three travel lanes in either direction. Don't get me wrong, this is a good start. I'm just saying that while this work is going on, we as a state should be putting together what's needed to widen another segment afterward.