Monday, August 27, 2007

In China, Too

Submitted by Paul Ellis

A previous post for this blog highlighted China's voracious appetite for building new roads. The Asian nation is also surpassing the United States in another area of record: bridge collapses.

As families continued to mourn nine people killed in Guangdong Province after a cargo vessel struck a bridge there, the nation was rocked by news of an even more shocking incident. Twenty-nine workers were killed and 46 are still missing after the bridge they were building in Fenghuang, a tourist destination in central Hunan Province, crumbled down on top of them.

The bridge was part of the highway linking Fenghuang and Daxing Airport of Tongren in neighboring Guizhou Province. Construction of the 42-meter-high structure was almost complete except for dismantling the steel scaffoldings, and more than 120 workers were removing the scaffoldings--during the afternoon rush hour--when all the four arches of the 328-meter-long stone bridge fell.

The Chinese Ministry of Communications reports that more than 6,000 damaged or dangerous bridges will be fixed or rebuilt under an ambitious plan to make China's major roadways safer by 2010. Figures from the ministry's annual report on road maintenance found that by the end of 2006, some 6,300 of China's 500,000 or so bridges were graded "fifth rank"--defined as "in dangerous status with some important structural components seriously damaged".

Paul Ellis is lead staff for RAMP; an employee of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Ellis led the Pierce County Transportation Advisory Committee (PCTAC), the community’s largest transportation planning effort.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Bridge Too Far Gone?

Submitted by Paul Ellis

The collapse earlier this month of the I-35 bridge into Minneapolis has underscored the need for renewed investment in transportation infrastructure nationwide--it's clear now that an earthquake is not the only danger facing older structures like the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The nation's long-term failure to adequately invest in roads and bridges has a deferred cost--a debt that may be coming due.

In the aftermath of the incident, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters urged state transportation departments to conduct inspections of 756 bridges similar to the ill-fated steel-deck truss bridge. The Minneapolis bridge, which was built in 1967, rose about 64 feet above the river and stretched about 1,900 feet across the water with a single 458-foot-long span to avoid interference with river navigation. Questions about the cause of the collapse and whether it could have been prevented continue to arise, although local officials have been quick to assure the public that a similar collapse here is very unlikely.

Minnesota officials were warned as early as 1990 that the bridge was "structurally deficient," yet they relied on patchwork repairs and stepped-up inspections that unraveled with a calamitous sudden drop of concrete, bodies and automobiles. The tragic collapse is sure to engender a new round of bridge inspections across the country; hopefully, it will also engender renewed debate about the need for transportation investments.
Paul Ellis is lead staff for RAMP; an employee of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Ellis led the Pierce County Transportation Advisory Committee (PCTAC), the community’s largest transportation planning effort.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Invitation to RAMP Participants

East side of the Thea Foss Waterway Transportation Corridor Study - Design Alternatives Community Workshop: the City of Tacoma is conducting a transportation corridor study for the east side of the Thea Foss Waterway, and community input is encouraged.

When: Thursday, September 27th
4:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Where: Phoenix Room, Freighthouse Square, Tacoma Dome District (2501 E. 'D' St. )

Study Purpose: Develop recommendations that will serve four primary functions:
  1. Improve vehicular and pedestrian access to the two distinct development areas located on the east side of the Foss (industrial and non-industrial).
  2. Provide for a functional separation between industrial and non-industrial development areas.
  3. Potentially create new freight routes to improve public access.
  4. Physically distinguish the areas with unique signage, limited access and landscaped buffers.
Study Area Boundaries: Thea Foss Waterway, Commencement Bay, the Puyallup River and I-5

For more information: contact Peter Huffman, City of Tacoma, Community and Economic Development Department, at (253) 591-5373.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

'Keep Washington Rolling' Moves R&T Forward

Submitted by Paul Ellis

Success at the polls on November 6th will require a well-organized, aggressive campaign effort working in all three counties. Such an effort is now organizing--it's called Keep Washington Rolling.

Keep Washington Rolling is building a regional campaign with strong local efforts in each county. The campaign is headed by Kelly Evans, a seasoned political strategist, and capitalizes on the strong alliances already built to defeat Initiative 912 last year. A campaign website and fact sheets detailing benefits of the Roads & Transit package for each county are already online.

Polling shows strong voter support for the Roads & Transit package, and the recent bridge collapse in Minnesota highlights the need for renewed investment in transportation infrastructure. A squishy public image and huge price tag are potential obstacles to a successful vote in November.

As of the end of July, the following groups and individuals have registered their support for the package:

Washington Conservation Voters
Transportation Choices Coalition
Washington Environmental Council
Tahoma Audubon Society
Environment Washington

Washington Roundtable
Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce
Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce
Everett Area Chamber of Commerce
Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce
Bellevue Downtown Association
Bellevue Chamber of Commerce
Renton Chamber of Commerce
Southwest King County Chamber of Commerce
Issaquah Chamber of Commerce
Pierce County Association of Master Builders
American Council of Engineering Companies – Washington
National Association of Industrial Office Properties
Washington Association of Realtors
Associated General Contractors of Washington
Perteet, Inc.

Washington State Labor Council
Pierce County Central Labor Council

City of Edmonds
City of Bellevue

Duke Schaub
Ralph Munro

Pierce County Democrats
Snohomish County Democrats

Paul Ellis is lead staff for RAMP; an employee of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Ellis led the Pierce County Transportation Advisory Committee (PCTAC), the community’s largest transportation planning effort.