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Stories relating to the Twin Cities and Minnesota

I-35W Bridge Collapse

One of the most important bridges in Minneapolis just collapsed. The cell phone networks are a disaster - cannot get a connection to call anyone. There were many vehicles on the bridge - we don't know jack shit about cause but it appears not to have been terrorism - as that is the first thing on many people's mind.

Channel 5 news just read from a report from last year that noted some cracks in the span. The bridge was under construction at the time.

2 thoughts:

1) The infrastructure in this country is rapidly deteriorating and our spending priorities are totally out of wack.

2) This is a horrible situation, but I can imagine many worse scenarios. Yet even with this, my cell phone is essentially useless. I am scared to think about what would happen if I actually needed it for something other than just checking in with friends. We have done nothing to prepare for disasters (be it "natural" or terrorist) and we have no one to blame but ourselves. The Bush Administration has done nothing since 9-11 but create more terrorists. Congress has done nothing but turn "Homeland Security" dollars into pork.

We need to get our act together or we will continue to suffer these disasters and a considerably worse aftermath than if we were actually prepared.

I cannot fucking believe how horrible this looks. I cannot imagine what it will take to heal the city.

St. Paul Facts

Interesting stuff I found in the 2007 St. Paul budget - from the Public Works:

Saint Paul has:
827 miles of streets
804 miles of sanitary sewers
450 miles of storm sewers
1007 miles of sidewalks
Over 30,000 street lights
486 signalized intersections

St. Paul Union Depot

The Union Depot is coming back. Opened in 1923, it used to serve some 200 trains a day. In 2012 it will serve Amtrak and a few buses - but it will grow from there. I don't think it is definite yet, but the Central Corridor should be hitting it when built.

At any rate, if you want to more about the Union Depot, Ramsey County Rail Authority has a sweet page about it. At some point, the Midwest High Speed rail line will end at that terminal. That site has more on the high speed rail plans in the Midwest.


Some of you may have heard that some jackass with my name (though quite a bit older than me) has gone and molested a young girl.

A Coon Rapids man admitted to authorities that he kidnapped and molested a 12-year-old girl after he watched pornography and smoked crack cocaine, according to charges filed Monday.

Christopher John Mitchell, 46, drove about three-quarters of a mile from his home before he abducted the girl as she walked to her school bus stop Friday morning, according to the complaint filed Monday in Anoka County District Court.

I just wanted to note that this was not me.

Vikings Stadium

The Vikings have unveiled a plan for renovating the Metrodome. This looks great. Retractable roof, view of downtown, massive redevelopment in the area. Most importantly, it keeps the Vikings in Minneapolis and on the existing Light Rail Train line. The Central Corridor will also hit it, I think.

The plan is damn expensive - $1 billion (U.S.). But it is not just a stadium, it is a massive redevelopment project.

The light-rail station outside the Metrodome would be transformed into a Winter Garden, a dramatic transportation hub lined with trees, according to an urban planning firm hired by the sports facilities commission. On Thursday, the firm unveiled its vision for east downtown and the possible future home of the Vikings that would have parking lots give way to 4,500 residential units, hotels with a combined 270 rooms, 1.7 million square feet of office space, ground-level retail shops, restaurants and, perhaps, a grocery store.

Less parking lots, more usable space!!! Transportation hub, yeah! I think this is dramatic improvement for Minneapolis. The Strib editorial page agrees.

Also, the Vikings will be playing at the U's new stadium while the Metrodome gets redone - so that will be a great chance for the U to generate some revenue on its stadium investment.

I know that I am a cheerleader for big projects here - a billion dollar light rail project and a billion dollar Metrodome project - but we need to prepare for the future and both of these investments are forward looking.

Apple Valley Wal-Mart

Looks like the Apple Valley Wal-Mart will be getting a green makeover. Wal-Mart has been pursing intelligent energy policy in an aggressive manner. Sure they are still dependent on an unsustainable shipping model, but they making great strides in building efficiency and green design.

The features in Apple Valley’s store will include:

  • A daylight harvesting system of skylights, computer-controlled daylight sensors, and other technologies.
  • T-8 fluorescent lamps and electronic ballasts to reduce the store’s energy load by about 15 to 20 percent.
  • LED lighting in all internally-illuminated exterior building signs for 70 percent more efficient operation than fluorescent illumination.
  • Central energy management allowing one location, Wal-Mart’s Bentonville, Ark., headquarters, to monitor and adjust heating, cooling, refrigeration and lighting systems in all U.S. stores.
  • High efficient heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning.
  • A “white” membrane roof with high solar reflectivity to lower the cooling load of the store by about 8 percent.
  • A hot water system which reuses “waste” heat from refrigeration equipment for about 70 percent of the store’s hot water needs.
  • Sensor-activated, low-flow water faucets which will reduce water usage by 84 percent.

Fun Events

Some of the most best moments of my life took place at the Guthrie Theater during productions of Skakespeare comedies. Their productions of both A Midsummer Night's Dream and Much Ado About Nothing made me laugh harder than just about anything I have ever seen.

So when I heard that the Guthrie is again running A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2008, I was thrilled. We'll have to wait a year because it doesn't start until April, 2008, but it will be worth it!

In the more immediate future, Christoper Buckley is coming to the Fitzgerald Theater in Saint Paul. Buckley wrote some great books and would likely be well worth seeing if the tickets were cheaper (and not via TicketBastard). On top of it, his speaking engagement comes in the middle of a hectic last month of school, so I won't be able to see him.

Suburban Commuters

Suburbs of the Twin Cities have come full circle on the issue of commuter rail. The Star Tribune is reporting that Suburbs are upset at how long it will take to develop commuter rail from Minnetonka and Eden Prairie to Minneapolis.

Four years ago, leaders in Eden Prairie and Minnetonka resisted a planned light-rail line as an intrusion into suburbia. Now they think it's long overdue.

St. Louis Park, Minnetonka, Hopkins and Eden Prairie are pulling for a 2015 opening of the Southwest Corridor light-rail line, five years earlier than planned.

Despite my fond feelings of several people who hail from these suburbs, I have to admit my knee-jerk reaction is too damn bad. If they want the trains faster, they can pony up the dough. The reason we have to wait so long is for federal matching funds. If they want to speed it along, increase the taxes in these affluent neighborhoods.

I'm a huge fan of rail in general. It saves energy and time while having a smaller ecological footprint than highways. Win win win! However, I don't know that commuter rail should be as subsidized as bus service is. Commuter rail tends not to serve low income communities in the same way as do buses and therefore has less justification to general taxpayer support.

Aside from those objectives, I look forward to the day when trains carry commuters into the metro area from all four cardinal directions and then some. I just hope that the wealthier communities pick up more of the tab while the Central Corridor (which serves a much more working class population) is heavily subsidized.

Snow Day

Accumulation - 10 inches or more maybe. Woohooo! Good medium weight snow to boot. Last week we had balmy high-40's that melted everything but mother nature corrected herself this weekend.

Had to drive in maybe 4 inches last night to shoot women gymnastics at the U. Photos of that to come. Did not have many problems because the roads were mostly deserted and I drive carefully.

We woke to heavy accumulation this morning. Jumped out and cleared the cars and driveway (we stacked 4 cars in it last night to make sure everyone was off the road) and took Harley for a walk to the bakery for bread (half mile away).

Nice drifts! Harley was enthusiastic briefly, then definitely annoyed by the snow. He would speed ahead of us on the plowed portions of sidewalk. Most of the sidewalks were not yet plowed. We were walking along Snelling Ave - a major road - and the plows had not hit any of the residential streets yet so crossing the streets perpendicular to Snelling was crazy. Super deep snow. We helped push one car out of it.

I was testing out my new Gore-Tex boots, hiking socks, and thin canvas Titanium (Columbia) pants. Good system. I stayed dry and warm after even an hour in the snow.

Harley tried not to drown. He was often dealing with snow that was 150% bigger than his own body. He hopped from boot track to boot track. We came home to an awesome breakfast prepared by Walchka.

The whites were blown out, but I grabbed a couple of photos before we came back inside for the morning...

Harley Snow Day

Harley Snow Day

Harley Snow Day

More on LRT

The Pioneer Press has more details about potential development along the central corridor with the development of light rail between St. Paul and Minneapolis.

I have been considering the loop idea, which I have previously supported but after reading more I have changed my position.

A single set of tracks could pose problems if there is a problem or breakdown. Also, it would mess up the transit station they plan to develop and people wanting to travel the loop will have to wait for awhile at one station while the train waits to start up again - on schedule.

I like this option:

Other big changes could be in the works. The plan looks at replacing the Sears store at 425 Rice St., located on a large swath of land near the state Capitol. In its place is a densely populated village that anchors revitalization in the area of Rice Street and University Avenue. The site could accommodate 1,000 to 1,300 housing units and 500,000 square feet of commercial space, while spawning as many as 2,500 new jobs, the report notes.

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