Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Mixed Signals

I've just returned from 10 days up in Kansas City (or more properly Smithville, Missouri) for the annual SCA Lilies War. It was HOT! At least 3 days of triple-digit temps. Needless to say, I roasted.
Of course, I can never take a trip without exploring the area. One of my main stops was Harrisonville to check out the new "Diverging Diamond" interchange at MO 291 and I-49. No big surprises, except people haven't learned to drive it yet. I took a few photos then started to wander back to my van when something caught my eye: there were new signals at 291 and Commerical St, but they didn't look right.

Red-Green-Yellow-Yellow Arrow-Green Arrow. Isn't that supposed to be Red-Yellow-Green-Yellow Arrow-Green Arrow?




Something isn't right here.The sequence is correct, but the Yellow and Green are in the wrong places. They didn't do it once, but twice. WTF? Either MoDOT is trying to psych-out drivers, or their contractor royally screwed up and no one caught it. 

I decided to contact MoDOT and received the following response:

Thank you for notifying us of the discrepancy in the signal head layout at 291 & Commercial Street in Harrisonville, MO.
This is a new signal set up at the intersection. 
Our project manager has notified the contractor and the signal head configuration will be corrected by 06/23/16.

We appreciate your assistance with noticing this discrepancy and very much appreciate that you took the time to notify MoDOT.

So I guess it WAS a contractor error, which leaves me with two questions: (1) What was the contractor thinking (2) Why didn't someone catch this before now?

When I said I wanted to make a difference in the world, I never imagined it would be calling out highway departments for stupid stuff.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

An Extra Nickel (or 3)

AASHTO has announced that AHTD will be allowed to extend I-555 from its current terminus at US 49 in Jonesboro, to AR 91 on the northeast side. Why this wasn't done in the first place, is beyond me (probably bureaucratic red tape). 

I explored 555 a few weeks ago, but haven't had time to post anything here. Hopefully, I'll find time next week, when my schedule slows down a little.

Friday, April 08, 2016

I Have Sinned


An error that has stood for over 10 years may be going away soon;
Oklahoma Highway 20 shares a roadway with Arkansas Highway 43 from just north of Maysville, Arkansas to SouthWest City, Missouri where it becomes Missouri Highway 43.


For whatever reason, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation is responsible for signing the road. North AR 43/East OK 20 is posted as East 20/North MO 43, while the opposite direction is West OK 20/ South AR 43.  I can sort of see the logic behind that, though it seems silly.

To make matters more confusing, the signage where 43 meets 20 at the OK/AR State Line shows AR 43 heading north along East 20, but MO 43 heading south.  In otherwords, the 43 shields have been reversed. I never gave it much thought in the past and figured ODOT would eventually correct things. 

On a recent trip along Hwy 43, I checked the sign assembly and noticed it hadn't changed. Ten years and the error remains, so I finally decided to contact ODOT who said they will have a sign maintenance crew check it out, 

So I have, very likely, commiteed a sin against the road enthusiast community by bringing this error to ODOT's attention. I'm sure the average motorist has probably never noticed and now I've ruined everything.

FOLLOW-UP

ODOT has changed this assembly to show OK 20 only. No more AR 43 or MO 43, just OK 20.  Of course, heading north on AR 43, there is still no sign showing which way to go.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

And It's Official!

I-555  is now official (or will be in less then 24 hours). I received a Tweet (yeah I'm on Twitter now) that the dedication ceremony for 555 (formerly US 63) will be Friday from 11-1 in Jonesboro. Great! Let's go...or not.
Sadly, the weather is looking dicey: lots of rain, lots of potential flooding (Southeast Arkansas and Northern Louisiana are already having problems) so it's probably better if I stay home.
On the plus side, I don't have to hear all the politicians talking about how great they are. On the minus side, I'll miss some cool photo opportunities &/or goodie bags.

If i'd had more than 24 hours notice, I could likely have worked something out, but the timing is just too close. No real time to plan.

Maybe next week I can go get some photos. There are also several bridges I want to look for, so I'll take my lumps for now and try again when the weather is better.

If, by chance, someone makes it up there, save me a goodie bag? ;-) 

UPDATE
Looking at the photos from the dedication, it appears it was a private luncheon/dedication: lots of police officers, local and area talking heads politicians, etc. So being a part-time blogger probably wouldn't have got me in the door. I did make it up there about a week later. I'll post on that later.
 

Monday, February 29, 2016

I'm FAT!

I've always been a little bit on the big side, but now I'm about 45 lbs over where I should be. When the weather is good, I go for a walk at the city park or the nature center. Yet, it feels like "work" and it's hard to maintain a decent pace.
Yet, I exert just as much, if not more, energy on my bridge excusions and I never considered them work, per se. I'm working (walk across old bridges, climbing down embankments, etc), but it doesn't feel like work. It feels like fun (unless I break my ankle like I did 5 years ago). 
So I guess the secret to losing weight is to chase more bridges and climb down more embankments?

 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Ruined!

The last dirt highway in Arkansas has been ruined! AHTD has decided to pave AR 220 between Lee Creek and Devils Den State Park. Devils Den has always been secluded and can be a little tricky to get to at times (winding, steep roadways with limited shoulders).

Well AHTD has decided 220 would make a nifty south entrance to the park, if it were only paved. So, construction has been underway for 6-8 months to widen the road to two lanes and pave it. 
Sadly, the scenic beauty of this roadway is being ruined: trees bulldozed, hillsides carved up to level the terrain, even an old rock culvert that's being replaced by a new bridge.

I've been out there twice in the last few months and it, quite simply depresses me. 220 has never been a road for the timid: barely a lane and a half wide, it's lumpy and bouncy with "OMG I'm gonna die" curves, but one heck a view of the valley in places. It's a slow drive, but sometimes you could catch a deer crossing the road.

But all that will soon be gone in the name of "progress". 

One small bright spot, however, is this cool knife I found in the middle of the road:



It's based on a Kukri , which is an Indian machete. Given how scratched up it looks, it had likely been sitting in the road for quite a while, lost by someone and buried under years of dirt and gravel, only to be uncovered during road construction.
I haven't decided what to do with it yet, but will probably have it sharpened and kept by my bed (provided I don't cut myself with it ;) )

I'll miss the old you, 220, but thank's for the souvenir. 

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Got to be a Record



Last weekend, I attended an SCA gathering in Tulsa. It's only about 2 1/2 hours for me if I take the turnpike, but what's the fun in that? I did take I-40 to Warner, then headed north on US 64. I never noticed before how many abandoned concrete culverts there are paralleling the highway: there's abandoned railroad right-of-way from Tulsa to south of Warner. I need to photograph some of them eventually.I was ahead of schedule, so checked out part of old US 64 through Muskogee. In addition to an old Texas-Pacific Railroad bridge, I found a nice concrete bridge over Coody Creek, about a mile north. Not bad for hardly trying ;)


Sunday was a different story: I left Tulsa heading west on old Hwy 66 to look for more bridges. I found the first one rather quickly, then an arch railroad bridge next to it. I wandered into Sapulpa and found two refurbished service stations (a Gulf and a Barnsdall). Heading west out of town, I found 2 more bridges on another old alignment of 66.


From Sapulpa, I headed down old US 75 towards Okmulgee and found 6 (I think) more bridges. Eventually, I found myself back in Muskogee chasing down a bridge I had forgotten to look for when I passed through on Friday.


A 2 1/2 hour drive took me 8 hours.Total number of bridges: 14. I think that's a record for one weekend. I'm still sorting photos, so it will likely be a day or two before I have them posted.


Right place, right time, I guess.

Monday, February 01, 2016

A Lotta Bread

Quik Trip is moving into the fast food business.Well, they have been for the last couple years. Many of their locations now feature "QT Kitchens" where you can order a limited number of breakfast biscuits, shakes, sandwiches, pizzas, and cappuccinos. 

I stopped at one in Muskogee over the weekend and ordered a personal-size pizza with pepperoni which was ready in less than 10 minutes. The price? $4.99 plus tax.
Verdict: a lotta bread for a lotta bread. The pizza didn't have a lot of flavor. The sauce was bland as were the toppings. Except for the "mouth feel" of eating pizza, I felt like I was eating bread. It was also very greasy and salty, prompting me to stop a couple times for some more tea to get the taste out of my mouth.

Overall, I wasn't real impressed. $4.99 seemed like a lot of money for cheap tomato sauce on bread. For that kind of money, I get can get a large pepperoni from the local "Buy One, Get Two Free" place...and the quality is about the same.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

On Jefferson's Trail


Something I hope to accomplish eventually is retracing the old Jefferson Highway from New Orleans to Canada. It's had at least three different alignments over the years, including along parts of US 71. One section in Missouri roughly follows MO 59 south of Anderson (original US 71). 
I've been somewhat remiss in my research as of late, but I'm hoping to do more in the Spring as time, weather, and finances permit.

I was doing some on-line mapping with Google earlier and  found yet another old section north of Noel.
I'm going to have to get some old topographic maps for this: did JH connect to Road 5695 or does it disappear into the rugged terrain? Given the area, the road was likely realigned at some point but whether this happened after 1926 when Jefferson Highway became US 71, I'll have to go look. Given that maps from that era aren't as detailed as they are now, it could be tricky. 

If nothing else, it's another excuse to go exploring.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Dear AHTD

I feel you made an error when you rebuilt I-540 around Fort Smith last year: you should have built a complete lane Northbound from AR 255/Zero St to AR 45/Old Greenwood Rd.  It makes no sense to have an on-ramp that ends, then begins again  a few hundred feet later as an off-ramp.  You should have extended the on-ramp and turned into an Exit Only off-ramp. 

The same thing applies to Southbound 540: the on-ramp from Old Greenwood Rd should have been extended as far as Zero St and made into an Exit Only ramp.

Yes, I know you built 540 in the mid-1960's to lower standards and never anticipated its current capacity, but if you're going to rebuild the road, why not make some improvements, too?


Triple Nickel


It looks as if Arkansas may soon have another Interstate Highway: as part of the highway spending bill paseed by Congress last  December,  I-555 has (finallly) officially been approved along US 63 from I-55 near Turrell to Jonesboro.

The biggest hold up was farm vehicle access, which is not allowed on Interstates, meaning an access road would have to be built across the St Francis Floodway. Apparently, that was a problem, in part becasue AHTD didn't have any funds set aside (typical).  However, US Representative Rick Crawford of Jonesboro managed to get an exemption for farm vehicles on 555 between Marked Tree and Payneway.

Whether that means that secion of 555 will remain US 63 or not remains to be seen. Of course, knowing AHTD, US 63 will likely "disappear" along I-555 anyway (it's "invisible" along I-55 to West Memphis and I-40 to Hazen).

All that's left now is posting the signs and (of course) the ribbon cutting. I've seen no official timetable, but my guess is the designation will happen late this Spring or early Summer after AHTD gets all 200-something signs posted and all the officiousness can be arranged. 

I'm hoping once Spring starts to move in, to make a run over there and check signing progress.  Besides, it's been ages since I've driven AR 463 (old US 63) and I am sure there are several bridges waiting for me :)

Unofficial word from AHTD is the Ribbon Cutting for 555 will likely be in March. The sign shop is working on getting signs ready. 

UPDATE (1-28-16)
KASU radio reports signs are beginning to go up along 555.




Saturday, January 16, 2016

No Way Out?

Wal-Mart just built a new Neighborhood Market near me in Fort Smith (right before they announced they were closing other stores, but that's another story).  The two main entrances are off US 71 with a truck entrance waaay around the back on a side street and a side entrance.

However,  the two main entrances off 71, only let you exit to the south since it's a divided highway. To go back north towards town, you have to either use the truck entrance in back, the side entrance which dumps you on a side street with a long red light, or cut through the bank parking lot posted No Thru Traffic, which again dumps you to the side street and the long red light The side street also leads to a small residential area, some offices, and the Pic-n-Tote. So a good chance you'll be sitting waiting for traffic to clear for at least a couple signal changes.

Did nobody think of this or was the land so cheap no one cared? To be honest, the Supercenter (or Stupor Center as I call it) is just as close to me going the other way, plus Harp's and CV's nearby, so there is little need to go down there, except maybe for gas, but why drive an extra mile just to save a penny a gallon? Spend 5 cents to save 15-20 cents? 


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Wasting Money (AGAIN)

AHTD seems to enjoy wasting money. It was announced this past week that the Big Piney Rest Areas on I-40 west of Russellville are closing to make way for renovations, including more restrooms, wi-fi, and a tourist information center.The rest areas (and the scenic overlook) will be closed for over a year while the existing buildings are razed and replaced with new structures.

So while the highways are allowed to crumble (last year's "improvements" are already starting to fall apart), AHTD is spending money to the upgrade rest areas (there are several others planned for upgrades as, well). Then they will complain they have no money to fix the roads. 

Can someone please explain this logic?

DAMMIT!

I go out of town for a couple days and come home to really crappy news: Two Mile Creek Bridge on old US 71 south of Mena was destroyed by an oversized truck on Januray 8th. 6 ton bridge and an idiot driving a 16 ton truck.WTF was the driver thinking?

I have no words for this kind of idiocy. It saddens me and it sickens me.