Thursday, March 14, 2013
Kwame gone, roads safer
Last week I spoke to a group of Warren and Center Line
senior citizens. I didn’t want to bore them,
but I knew I had an ace in the hole . That
same day former Detroit Mayor Kwame
Kilpatrick had been convicted on federal corruption charges. When my speech
started to falter all I had to do was bring up the fact that Kwame was finally headed to prison. The
room was once again mine.
I like to think that everyone – young and old, black and
white, Republican and Democrat, genius and
simpleton – all rejoiced that
Kwame had gotten his comeuppance. The evidence seemed overwhelming. Bribes were accepted. Shady deals were made. Scads of
money remains missing. And Kwame had already been convicted of perjury
and obstruction of justice.
Kwame was in his 30s when he
served as mayor of Detroit. He had a promising career, but greed got the best
of him. Or maybe Kwame had always been greedy. Either way it’s a sad chapter in
the city of Detroit’s history. But without him I might’ve lost that group of
seniors soon after the pledge of allegiance. After his sentence was announced, Kwame surrendered his driver's license to his mother. "We won't need this where we're headed," Kwame said.
Driving home tonight I will feel a bit safer on the roadways.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Work slated, weather permitting
Ready for some road work? Ready to get mad when it appears that road workers aren't working? Spring means plenty of orange pylons. Commuters beware -- the Michigan Department of Transportation says its crews will begin preliminary
work this week to replace the West Grand Boulevard overpass above I-94 in
Detroit. This $9.5 million project includes replacing the existing overpasses
with two separate structures, and removing the eastbound I-94 left lane exit to
West Grand Boulevard in order to improve safety and mobility. At least that's what the press release says.
With work expected to
begin this week, crews will close one lane of W. Grand Boulevard in each
direction above I-94, along with the westbound I-94 exit to W. Grand
Boulevard. In addition, crews will close the northbound W. Grand Boulevard
entrance to eastbound I-94, and the southbound W. Grand Boulevard entrance to
westbound I-94. A detour will be posted.
Most of the preliminary work
involves relocating and replacing utilities.
Just remember: We were lucky that the storm that dumped 10 inches on Chicago, missed the Detroit area entirely. I said, entirely.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Drive a car known to police
They always talk about red cars attracting the attention of police. I don't know about that. But I can recommend that you don't drive a car that police have never seen before. I used to test drive cars for an automobile trade magazine. Actually I rarely wrote about the cars, but I did need to be familiar with the cars because I was editing stories about them. Anyway, I quickly learned that the one thing police do more than anything else is look at cars. That's their primary weapon against crime. They stop someone for a burned-out tail-light then discover that the driver is wanted for murder. If everyone rode bicycles half the crimes in the world would never be solved. So police have to watch cars as part of their job. They sit in their boring (at least on the exterior) cruiser and watch the world drive by. This is coupled with the fact that most police officers are guys and guys, in general, love cars. So when I was test-driving an Alfa Romeo (soon to return to the U.S. market) I could be sure that I would catch the cops' eyes. And to think I was hoping to catch women's eyes. What a fool I was.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
It's the age-old question: In the winter, when do you wash your car? Around here it's just going to get dirty again -- and fast. There is still plenty of salt residue on the road -- and more snow to come. But do you want your car so dirty that some kid can write a message on it? You can only hope that the message is civil. And do you go to a drive-thru car wash or a do-it-yourself car wash. At the do-it-yourselfer if it's too cold the water freezes. When you wash it yourself in the summer, you immediately proceed to the freeway to speed up for a quick wind-dry. That doesn't help in the winter. Faster speeds just lower the wind chill factor and the next thing you know -- your windows are frozen shut.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Oakland vs Macomb
Oakland County vs Macomb County. Is there really any difference in the typical driver from these two counties? I could make some sweeping generalizations. Oakland may have a few more wealthy drivers and we all know their habits. They drive like they own the road. Macomb drivers drive like they rent the road. Both counties have young female drivers who never were able to enjoy driving, and found it just a necessary evil for getting from Point A (home) to Point B (the mall). That was before the cell phone. Now young girls (and women) have something to do while they drive, since simply paying attention is way too boring. You try to stop a young girl from texting while driving. Go ahead and try, it's impossible. If your teenage girl loves to text then she will be doing it while she drives. Until her very first close call. Then she'll stop for two weeks and then start up again. The biggest difference between the two counties is that Macomb probably has older drivers. They drive kind of slow so they don't get into many accidents. They may cause
some accidents but they putt-putt away, blissfully unaware of their trail of carnage. OK, so I exaggerate. The geography of the counties presents some problems. Macomb drivers only need to navigate along the shores of one lake. No problem. In north Oakland drivers continuously encounter lakes. It's been kind of cold. Do drivers in Oakland ever drive their cars out onto smaller lakes? Of course, they do. It's fun.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Gov. Rick Snyder surprised some people at his State of the
State address when he advocated funding road construction through increased
fees for vehicle registration. Normally a dutiful politician uses the word
“fee” in lieu of the dreaded word “tax.” Republicans, especially, hate the
T-word. I’ll give Snyder some credit. Because he hopes to raise over $1
billion, he also suggested raising the gasoline tax. The response was
predictable – Democrats and Republicans both balked. Road repair is a touchy
subject for most people. It’s hard to see a real need for fixing roads until it
affects you directly. Like when you’re driving at night, hit a pothole, blow a
tire and then wait for an hour on the side of the road for some guy named Ralph
to arrive in his tow truck.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Snyder wants to hike vehicle fees
Gov. Rick Snyder wants to double vehicle registration fees to help pay for road work. Another $120 per vehicle? C'mon.
That's a tough sell because most of us don't appreciate the need for road construction -- not until a bridge collapses, as happened on a Minnesota freeway in 2007. A collapsed bridge on I-94, that would get our attention.
Part of the reason we distrust orange pylons and all they represent is that this state tolerates ridiculously poor work ethic from the road crews. They work one day, but not the next. An expensive electronic road sign warns us that an exit is closed ahead, but we get up there and find the exit's open. So the next time we don't believe what the sign says only to find that the exit is indeed closed.
Then we hear the road crews earn a bonus when they get a job done ahead of schedule. That's bullcrap. Just pay them a flat fee. And if they don't get it done on time then they get docked.
Of course, we could all drive smaller cars and drive slower. That would cause less wear and tear on the road. And if we hit a pothole at 50 mph it wouldn't be as jarring as 70 mph. But that's not feasible. We want to drive gigantic pickups at 90 mph. If that's the case we'd better be willing to pay.
And once again we have a politician calling a "tax" a "fee."