January 30, 2006

Bridge debate, part X

A Letter to the Editor over the weekend, written by two people who were involved with the Renewal Forum held after the hurricane, basically blasted MDOT for their continued insistence on their proposed bridge design for the Biloxi-Ocean Springs span. They demand that MDOT scrap "Bridgezilla" and get on with building a temporary span along the path of the destroyed bridge (using the remaining pillars if possible), while everyone sits down and plans a new permanent bridge that everyone can agree with (or at least agree enough to get it built).

The two letter writers, and others of their peers, appear to have created two new websites to further their causes: www.msrenewalcoalition.org and www.bridgenow.org . The former looks to be a support page for the policies recommended by the Renewal Forum, while the latter is plainly a call for MDOT to scrap their design, build a temporary bridge, then plan and build a permanent bridge along the lines of that proposed in the Renewal Forum.

I took a look through the latter site this evening, in particular their FAQ. One particular entry in their FAQ perpetuates the theory, held by many of the Renewal forumers and those in Ocean Springs and the subject of several letters over the last month, that MDOT's 6-lane bridge proposal is really a "10-lane bridge".

I immediately sent an E-mail to the bridgenow.org people explaining the fallacy of this misinformation (I called it misinformation, anyway). Some of the particulars of MDOT's bridge proposal are available on their website if you know where to look (trust me, it took some digging). Their proposal is for, in each direction, 3 12-ft driving lanes, an 8-ft inside shoulder, and a 10-ft outside shoulder. For them to squeeze 5 lanes out of that, they would have to eliminate both shoulders and make the driving lanes about 10.5 feet wide, neither of which would be likely to pass muster with FHWA (the Feds), who would have a vote in the matter. Although it would result in only 6 feet of combined shoulder, having 4 lanes each way would be a future possibility, but 5 lanes each way is a bit of a stretch.

To my surprise (and impressment), I received a reply from a Dr. Jeffrey Bounds, who agreed that 10 lanes would be a stretch and said they would revise the FAQ to reflect such.

Goes to show that, even amidst disagreement (I disagree with the coalition on how many lanes the bridge needs, though I generally agree with their other positions on the bridge), there can still be civility. MDOT would do well to take a lesson on that...

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