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Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

Highway Safety and Cameras in the Houston Sky

Monday, September 19, 2011

Crossover accidents on four lane highways are often deadly and many states have installed barriers to prevent vehicles from veering into oncoming traffic. Nationwide costs are as high as $200,000 per mile for cable, and concrete is at least double that, but Iowa is averaging $45,000 and $315,000 per mile, respectively. Iowa will soon have 220 miles of cable installed, estimated to save nine lives per year.

Cable barriers use multiple strands of steel and must be repaired after almost every accident. Iowa is locating the median cable barriers at 12 feet from the edge of the inside lane. Semis have even been prevented from crossing into oncoming traffic. Motorcyclists have expressed concern for their safety.

"Weak post" systems with stretchable cables have been used for at least 40 years. Iowa tested a section more than 30 years ago and determined that they are effective from both a safety and cost standpoint. They can absorb a hit, stretching more than ten feet (the posts give way), and are intended to "grasp" the vehicle.

There are pros and cons for either location. A vehicle striking one placed at the side of the road can remain close to the road, a possible "accident waiting to happen." An airborne vehicle could sail right over those in the middle of the median.

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Why are our roads (and universities) so expensive? One minor example; I just finished reading "Highway Median Impacts on Wildlife Movement and Mortality," a 109 page report prepared by a University of Montana professor and a researcher. The report was for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). It mesmerized me. I mean it put me to sleep. Underwhelmed am I.

It is one hundred nine pages of repetition (but with scholarly word redundancy) to tell the Caltrans people that animals have trouble crossing the road where concrete barriers are installed. Yes, solid concrete inhibits critters more than cable barriers do. And, that spaces between concrete barriers, or holes at the bottom, can allow critters passage. You knew that, I knew that, even VP Joe Biden might have known that, but apparently Caltrans did not.

The University researchers discovered, and reported that "Road networks and systems are vital to today's economy and society." Uh, no, they really didn't discover that, but their research determined that "Button and Henscher" had, in 2001. Caltrans was undoubtedly grateful to learn that fact too, perhaps not grateful to have to pay to be told that.

Not content with following the "Medians" title, the government employees delved into tree lined roads, and medians where grass is taller. You may not be surprised to learn that that birds flying from fruit trees are more apt to be killed than those who haven't eaten fruit before flying (fruit trees are closer to the ground, doncha know).

I was wrong -- it was 109 pages after 11 pages of index, and two pages of introduction.

I didn't see any reference as to how Armadillos cross roads, but they did see fit to tell the Californians about how Grizzly bears do it. It has been 90 years since a Grizzly has been spotted in California, except for that one on their state flag, of course. I was pretty sure that Armadillos stay away from CA, but since they become sexually mature as early as three months of age, it sounds like Hollywood.

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Unfortunately, the law enforcement tool I am about to describe is probably only a few years away from being a necessity in metropolitan areas everywhere. Our Iowa 75's slo-pitch softball team in the National Senior Olympics in Houston, Texas, in June. As we entered the parking lot of the complex we saw an odd looking contraption. Mounted on a moveable scissor type hydraulic platform, it looked like a cross between a deer blind without camouflage, and a modernistic tree house, perched 18 feet in the air. Necessary to prevent vehicle break-ins, we were told.

These $60,000 observation platforms are equipped with cameras and video recorders and give a panoramic view of any site. They don't have to be manned, but officers or volunteers staff it when used in high crime areas. If an observer notices suspicious activity, they will radio down to patrol officers, who have access to live surveillance feeds from the tower. It also can feed video to the police station.

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Due to injuries, we were forced to play with only nine men while our opponents had the usual eleven. I pitched all of 'em as we won two and lost five in 98 degree heat in League City, a Houston suburb.

Remembering Herb Floyd and Lloyd Kallsen, both fine county engineers. Don Paulin, 2carpenterdon@gmail.com, 7557 30th Av, Norwalk, IA 50211 - 515-201-7236

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By Don Paulin
Been There, Done That