Friday, September 23, 2011

Nudge List--K & I Bridge

With the closing of the Sherman Minton Bridge, many have suggested that the K & I Bridge be re-opened to pick up some of the slack left by the main bridge's closing. I am encouraged by correspondence and the resulting conversation with representatives of the Norfolk Southern Railroad, the owners of the K & I.

I have used that bridge often when it was open to the public. I have ridden across it often on a bicycle as well. The latter conveyance provides a particularly exhilarating sensation. Since the deck is made of steel grates one can see through, as one speeds up on a bike, the deck visually disappears, giving the sensation of flying above the river. I digress. The point is, I have a history of riding across that bridge both in cars, buses, and on bikes. And this history has caused me to miss an important point about the bridge's utility as a regular full-service bridge.

When the bridge was open to regular public use the train tracks approached and entered the bridge more or less as a continuation of Vincennes Street, so car traffic ran parallel with the train tracks. As I looked at the bridge yesterday, up close, it dawned on me that the west traffic lane of the bridge is not likely usable because it is now dissected by the railroad tracks. Both days I've gone to look at the bridge, it has had a train parked across that lane. The bridge might be used by the railroad as a kind of staging area where the trains are held until the tracks open up farther down the line. Even if the railroad would quit using the tracks for such a purpose, if indeed that is how they are used, the automobile approach to the west lane of the bridge would require extensive rebuilding and paving.

The paving is an investment I think should be made.We have seen with the closing of the Sherman Minton that the city and the region is negatively affected by disruptions to bridge traffic. It just makes sense to have a backup.

The most encouraging discussion with railroad officials relative to our current situation revolved around using the bridge for ambulances and medical personnel. Passage over the bridge would require meeting an on-site railroad worker who would open locked gates. This would address one of the most perilous eventualities of the current bridge closing. I am hopeful the Norfolk Southern will make its determination quickly on this matter.

The other encouraging thing to come out of the discussion is the apparent willingness to look at further use of the bridge after the current mess is sorted out. Many have longed to have the bridge open as a link between Louisville's River Walk and Southern Indiana's Greenway. I am more confident now that the small steps we make during the current situation can lead to wider use of the K & I in the future. Since the bridge is a private structure it will be up to City officials to work with Norfolk Southern personnel to work out a plan for pedestrian/bike use of the bridge, and also to put in place a permanent plan for emergency use even after the current problem with the Sherman Minton is solved.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Nudge List- Intro.

As one who came of age before Blackberries,iphones and computers. And as one who would not claim getting and staying organized as among his better traits, I confess to being one who writes notes to himself: on envelopes,napkins, newspapers, coffee cups, business cards. In short, I scribble notes to myself on any available paper surface in order to remember what I want or need to remember. Unfortunately, I often don't remember where I've put the scraps on which I wrote the notes to myself.

So here is a list, gleaned from notepads, cigar boxes, and glove compartments, of things I'd like to see happen in New Albany if I'm elected to a second term. That is to say, these are things I would like to help bring to fruition. Most of these issues are not fully within my or any other council member's ability to bring about. They primarily fall within the ambit of the Mayor. He could pick up some of these ideas and run with them. The next mayor has a list of projects and priorities that he will want to pursue. Whether any of my plans are to be found on any of the mayoral candidates' lists I can't say.

I'm not referring to this as a list of campaign promises. I hope it is more than a wish list. I think of it more as a nudge list. Some of these are things I will be introducing on my own, but more likely I will be nudging the Mayor to see the value of these plans, projects or dreams, and to offer my help from the Council to make them reality. A common characteristic of most of these bullet points is that they are not, for the most part, expensive undertakings. Rather, they are quality-of-life projects that can be put into practice on a relative shoestring. Another common thread -- they tend to capitalize on the investments our forebears have already made for us.

If we learn nothing else from the closing of the Sherman Minton bridge, we should recognize that saving money is fine, getting by on less is sometimes necessary, but our physical civic infrastructure, sometimes referred to as The Commons, requires attention. In times past, people recognized this and accepted upkeep of The Commons as society's cost of doing business. We must be about that business again, and many of these ideas, I think, are ways we can do that right here in New Albany. These are ways we can make what we have better, and make our city more liveable, functional and prosperous.

All I'm writing here now is the list of notes I've made. From now through the election I'll explain what I mean about them and why I think they're important.

In no particular order:

Shirt Factory Incubator
Improved Web Site for Our City
Dog Park
Community Gardens
Take Advantage of Falling Run Creek
Challenge Zones--Incentives for Re-Developers
K & I Bridge, City Pays Insurance to Allow Bridge to Open
Continued Progress on Code Enforcement
Cherry Street Project, NSP
Sidewalks Where None Exist
Explore Feasibility of Form-Based Codes
Expansion of Farmers' Market
Stronger Ties to I.U.S.
Proper Structure and Balance in City-County Agreements
Expose Brick Streets
Expanded Use of Courts to Aid Code Enforcement
What Follows EMC?
Continued Progress on Revitalization Downtown and on Charlestown Road
Point System to Weight Purchasing Decisions in Favor of Local Producers/Sellers

While this list may seem long, it isn't complete. I haven't even checked the pockets of the coats I put away last spring.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Non-news Sounds From September 11, 2001

This song was in my car CD player on September 11, 2001. I had played it along with the rest of the album frequently in the days or weeks leading up to the attack. I played it several times that day. Whether it picked up an association at that time or whether it had grooved into my brain prior to the event, it is evocative for me of that day.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

You Can't Get There From Here. Or, Can You?

The emergency closing of the Sherman Minton bridge needs to be addressed with adroitness. Newspaper accounts put the daily traffic flow across that span at upwards of 70,000 vehicles a day. The ability of the two remaining car bridges, the Kennedy Bridge and the Clark Memorial Bridge, are woefully inadequate to handle the sudden increase in traffic which they will face for the duration of the closing of the Sherman Minton Bridge.

Some have called for reliance on car pools,staggered shifts, and flexible work hours to meet the challenge. This wake up call underscores the foolishness of ignoring maintenance. It points out at the local level the compromised status of our infrastructure. It should represent a true national challenge, something like the "Sputnik moment" of the late fifties. It should force us to question the sense of putting all the eggs of our transportation system in the single basket of personal automobile commuting.

It should, and it could, but it probably won't. And it certainly won't by Monday morning when some kind of "geddon" will await those damned to make the trip by car to Louisville and back to meet the requirements of their jobs.

So here's a modest, perhaps counter intuitive, proposal of how we might muddle through this "cartastrophe" in the coming weeks.

Close the Clark Memorial Bridge to personal vehicles. Allow that span to carry only buses and emergency vehicles on the traffic lanes. Pedestrians and cyclists could use the sidewalks. It will do commuters little good to jump on a bus which will be stuck in barely moving traffic. There will be little incentive for car drivers to leave their cars parked if there is no expedited way of crossing the river. If buses are given free flow through designated streets and a green light at the Clark Bridge, I think those who see the buses rolling as the car bound sit mired in traffic may quickly decide that, at least during this particularly trying period, it would be wise to rely on mass transit.

It would be up to transportation experts to figure out how neophyte bus riders can be directed to their destinations once they've successfully crossed the river and de-bused at Union Station or some other central point. The first and biggest obstacle will be the bridge crossing itself.

The need to provide for easy cross-river travel of emergency vehicles is simply obvious on its face.

Once normalcy returns to daily traffic patterns it will be up to us as a community to recognize the vulnerability of our transportation non-system and proceed with a reasoned discussion of Twenty First Century alternatives. The alarm has sounded. Will there be sufficient will to meet the challenges and prepare for a better future?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

President Obama, It's Not as if You Have to Reinvent the Wheel

Yesterday, President Obama, for reasons known only to him, continued his march to Appeasamattox, as he threw the regulation of smog overboard. Frankly, it's getting tiresome and indefensible.

The President could learn something from one of his great predecessors...