Worcester Blogger Coffee

As reported on P&C, this Saturday, Sept 11, at 9am there will be a Worcester “blogger coffee” at the Friendly’s in Tatnuck Square (642 Chandler Street). 

If the words “blogger coffee” aren’t incentive enough, here might be a couple more reasons to attend:

  • You can meet Mike Benedetti, who is one of the most thoughtful listeners I’ve ever met in my life. 
  • You can meet me.  Trust me, not nearly as much of an incentive as meeting the wonderful Mike B., though — as I think every city official who’s ever met me can attest — you will come away thinking that I’m much more rational than I appear on this blog.  (Or maybe that’s “even less rational.”  One or the other.)

You do not need to be a blogger to attend — all are welcome!

As Mike said…”This is a chance to meet some of the other folks making our local internet an interesting place.”

A Bit More About the Burns Bridge

(It may not seem like it, but I actually think about this bridge a lot; here are some random thoughts/quotes from various anonymous people on it.)

As a reminder, there’s an environmental impact meeting about the bridge tonight.  Here is an excellent pamphlet about the meeting in particular and the project in general.

Who is Kenneth Burns?
Someone asked me why it’s called the Kenneth F. Burns Bridge; here’s a little bit about the gentleman.

Through Arch Style
I think the push would be (though I could be wrong) to have the new bridge be a through arch.  The problem is that there’s a lot of variety in through arch styles, and that the example of this style (#3) MassDOT showed in the replacement types page is, according someone I’ll call Anonymous #1, more “South Beach and not New England.” 

Two examples of different kinds of through arches in locations with a similar span to Lake Quinsig are the Lower Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, MN and the Frederick Douglass/Susan B. Anthony Bridge in Rochester, NY. 

Obviously, the color of that proposed through arch bridge (My Cousin Vinny mint-green metallic) needs to be changed.

As another anonymous Worcesterite noted, “I swear I’m not old fashioned, but I still like the graceful lines of Bridge #2.  I think #3, even in the form of the [Lower Avenue Bridge or “Freddie-Sue Bridge”], would be too large a presence on what is essentially a flat (rather than rounded) bridge span.  Unless they’re increasing the curvature of the bridge, it might start to seem a little overloaded.  The width is going to be an important consideration for any design – it has the potential to plunge a big portion of the lake below into darkness.”

Kate Toomey had a similar feeling a while back.  I think they both make good points about the appropriateness of arches for this site.
I asked Anonymous #1 his/her thoughts about the span of the through arch, noting that it seemed like the through arch style was going to provide more clearance underneath.  S/he said, “the profiles are the same for all options.  BUT the major difference is that the Through Arch has a much shallower superstructure (under the bridge) than the other options.  This adds almost 2 to 4 feet of additional clearance throughout the span of the arch.  All other options add clearance only at the peak and not through out the entire span.  Also there will be 3 lanes heading in each direction with a 4th lane heading into Worcester as a right turn lane for UMASS traffic.”
Through Arch – During Construction
It’s worth noting that the Through Arch would also require a temporary bridge, but that two lanes in both directions and a sidewalk would be open at all times.
Through Arch – Pedestrian Access
I asked Anonymous #1 about pedestrian access to the island.  “The idea behind the Through Arch is to make it more than just an object to facilitate transportation but a destination point for the community.  Having this access would be a great way to watch a regatta or fish, etc…  One major advantage the Through Arch provides is the under clearance around the shore lines.  Worcester has raised the idea about a boardwalk through the park and around the Lake.  The Through Arch is the only option that allows for this and access to the island would play a role in this.”
Through Arch – Additional Pedestrian Concerns
I asked Anonymous#1 the following: It seems like one of the concerns for the residents were pedestrian improvements for the bridge.  I find that the existing bridge can get puddles in rainy weather, and that pedestrians invariably get splashed.  Are there going to be ways to drain the car lanes better, or a way to protect pedestrians from being splashed?  I also noticed that in the visual design there was a bump-out for looking out on the lake; how many on either side are being planned?
S/he responded: “This was a major concern of the area residents and was incorporated in the profile of all options.  The drainage of the new bridge will be much better and will not collect or puddle on the bridge. The sidewalks will be widened and easier for pedestrian use.  As for the bump outs – these are additions that can be made after the type selection.  The community input will play a large role in this.”
Please let me know if you’d like to know more about the schedule for the project — I do know a bit about it, but I hate to bore people with my public works obsessions.

Worcester City Council Procedure Questions

If you didn’t read last night’s City Council Peanut Gallery, you may have missed the following exchange:

Jose: Can someone explain to me why they keep immediately voting to reconsider, then voting exactly the same way?

Tracy: Jose, they do that so no one can call up tomorrow or the next day and say they want to “reconsider” the item, in which case it would go back on next week’s agenda.
Tracy: that means it’s done tonight
Tracy: but they have to suspend the rules to reconsider, so they have to vote to suspend the rules, then vote on whether they want to reconsider
Jose: Do they plan that ahead of time? Or Just do that for “big” votes?
Tracy: they do it for things that HAVE to move forward this week, always
Tracy: There are ones that they do plan ahead of time (that’s when you’ll see the Mayor say to the clerk, “do we need a reconsideration?’). Or sometimes they ask the Manager “Do you need this this week?”
So, you’ll see some times where there’s a vote taken, and someone (usually Clancy) will immediately say, “Motion to suspend the rules.”  Now, that councilor does not actually want to reconsider the vote.  What s/he wants is to make sure that the item they voted on happens this week.  (See Reconsideration in this helpful list of terms compiled by the City Clerk.)
The Council has to have a roll call (individually name-called by the clerk) vote on whether to suspend the rules to reconsider, and then have another roll call vote on whether to reconsider the original vote.  So, you’ll see the motion to suspend the rules, everyone (usually) will vote yes, and then you’ll see the motion to reconsider, and everyone (usually) will vote no.
Very confusing, and happens all the time.
(I personally find half the things that go on in the Council chambers confusing.)
Are there any other things that go on in Council meetings that you have questions about?   If you do, leave a comment below and we’ll find an answer (and eventually try to compile a FAQ for Council procedures).  And no, “does agreeing with Mike Germain mean that he’s right or that I’m crazy?” is not an acceptable question!
(Mad props to Tracy for providing such a good answer!)