Sensible vs Indefensible

The Sensible Stillwater Bridge Partnership probably has the best name of any advocacy group anywhere.  This Pioneer Press graphic shows why:

Which bridge is sensible?

The article from which that image was stolen also contains what may be the most outrageous statement of the year, from someone whom MnDOT pays to lie for them:

MnDOT’s Adam Josephson said the main problem with the plan is its location. Placing the bridge among “so many natural and cultural resources would have a significant environmental impact,” he said.

“It’s got other problems, but its location is the main problem,” he said. “The problem is that it has more environmental impacts (than MnDOT’s proposed location). That’s the reason why we located the bridge where we did. We have to avoid, as much as possible, impacts to protected resources.”

The Sensible Partners for Sensibility have come up with this excellent graphic, showing exactly how massively gigantic MnDOT’s bridge is (it’s worth clicking through for the entire graphic):

Big, bigger, fucking outrageous

The notion that a half-mile long bridge that’s 40 to 110 feet above the waterline would have greater impact than a one-mile bridge that’s 110 to 220 feet above the waterline is so preposterous that it’s insulting.  Let me say it again:  MnDOT expects us to believe that the bridge that’s half as long and half as tall has the greater environment impact.

On top of that whopper, MnDOT is using its own system of overpriced and politicized consultancies to pretend the much smaller bridge won’t save as much money:

If the [Sensible Bridge] plan were adopted, MnDOT would have to go back and do further environmental review, Josephson said.

“That could take four to six years…to get back to the point we are at today,” he said. “That could delay the project to 2019 or later.”

[The Sensible Bridge] plan would cost about $394 million – $300 million less than the one being considered by Congress. The $111 million increase in their cost estimate reflected several changes near the Minnesota approach to the bridge, partnership officials said.

The St. Croix River Crossing proposed by MnDOT and supported by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., is expected to cost $574 million to $690 million.

But Josephson said the partnership proposal would cost about the same as MnDOT’s [Bloated Bridge] plan because of the extra costs due to additional environmental impacts and construction delay.

Three years ago, I gave a few bucks to a certain comedian who’s now a Senator officially if halfheartedly supporting the Bloated Bridge.   That money bought my freedom from six years of spotlight on a weasel who used to run St Paul, but it also made me subject to a barrage of emails from a corrupt gang of incompetent lushes whose only notable accomplishment has been to kill the one successful grassroots political movement that ever existed in this state.*

Anyway, one of their recent emails, besides begging for my cash to use on vague and dubious projects, rightfully decried the condition of local government finances.  Of course, the situation was blamed on their rival political gang, and no mention was made of the two gangs’ collusion on projects like the Bloated Bridge.

One of many things that Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum agree on is that we need to continue to throw money at our ridiculously overbuilt automotive infrastructure.  As Strong Towns has pointed out, Stillwater’s Bloated Bridge is an acceleration of the decades-long process of self-bankruptcy driven by our broken political system.  If only MnDOT could remember that its job is not to just build stuff, but to ensure the safety and functionality of our transportation system.  Maybe the latter will require building a bridge in Stillwater, but no sensible interpretation of MnDOT’s mission would require the bridge to be built big, fast and now.

Untrammeled beauty, or: Just another jam on the St Croix

*I exaggerate slightly here for the sake of cantankerousness

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6 comments on “Sensible vs Indefensible

  1. Matt says:

    Exactly. Here’s a model for a sensible bridge with likely 1/10th the cost: http://www.johnweeks.com/bridges/pages/sc01.html

    • Alex says:

      Good call. It’s like they’re saying the Point Douglas Bridge would have a greater impact than the Tappan Zee. ps John Weeks is awesome.

  2. Froggie says:

    Although I don’t think it’d bloat to as much as the current MnDOT proposal, MnDOT’s Josephson does have a point: the “sensible bridge” proposal cost will increase to more than what its supporters are suggesting. Here’s why:

    – Further delay because, and Josephson is right on this, you’d have to reopen the environmental studies.
    – Inflation due to the additional study time…though if the economy tanks again, this may not be as big of a problem.
    – The cost for location/environmental studies, preliminary enginnering, and design is typically about 10-15% of the total cost of a project. That’s not an insignificant chunk of money given the nature of the project. That said, I see the consultant included a 15% “engineering” mark in the $361M cost estimate.

    I also think they should go with 4 lanes vice the 3-lane proposal submitted…especially with the reverse-flow PM volumes. Since Matt references the Point Douglas bridge, it should be noted that the Point Douglas Bridge is a 4-lane bridge.

    • Alex says:

      I agree that delaying the project for further studies will increase the cost, but I don’t think it’s fair to compare the cost of building the Sensible Bridge in 2019 to the cost of building the Bloated Bridge in 2012. It’s doubly unfair since MnDOT could have studied the Sensible Bridge simultaneously with the Bloated Bridge and chose not to. I think even 10 years isn’t unreasonable delay for a project that’s supposed to stand for up to a century.

      Can you elaborate on your stance on capacity? It seems like 500 cars/hour is doable for one lane but I’m not really familiar with reversible lanes.

      • Froggie says:

        I agree that comparing SSB 2019 to current plan 2012 is apples-and-oranges. But regarding another 10 year delay…the question is can the existing bridge, not to mention Stillwater residents and businesses, handle another delay? At this point, I’d say no, regardless of where the project goes from here.

        500vphpl is very doable, but the problem is that both existing and forecast volumes are in excess of that level. The actual capacity level the bridge can support will depend a lot on the traffic control chosen for the Minnesota end of the bridge. A roundabout has already been ruled out evey by the SSB consultant, so we’re looking at either a traffic signal or an interchange. An interchange, of course, can handle a much higher level than 500vphpl…easily 1700 vphpl. At that level, a 2-plus-reversible-lane bridge is supportable even with forecast volumes.

        However, with a traffic signal on the Minnesota end, the lane capacity is much less because it’s restricted by the amount of green time…especially in the westbound direction with this particular project. Capacity would be borderline with 2 westbound lanes in the morning…but would be over with a single westbound lane in the evening. And the reason for this isn’t commuter traffic…both the MnDOT model and the SSB consultant model predict an increase in the amount of non-commuter traffic.

        The SSB proposal could easily support 4 lanes with minimal or no increase in the proposed width (and thus, cost of the bridge). Just go with an undivided section and reduce the shoulder width, like the Point Douglas Bridge is.

  3. Alex says:

    Page 6 of the SSB Traffic Capacity Report shows PM reverse-peak traffic at 500 vph, but that was in 2003 so I suppose it’s grown a bit since then.

    I’ve said it before, but I refuse to believe that Stillwater is going to dry up and blow away if the bridge closes. In town most of the businesses are sustained by day trippers anyway – do you think Pierce County residents are buying Stillwater tee shirts? The already-ailing Hwy 36 strip will probably suffer a bit, but having walked there I can’t claim to be very concerned with its survival.

    Anyway thanks for your thoughts.

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