Let the scapegoating commence!

Last year, we were told that there were 122 dog bites reported in the city.  If we assume that the population of Worcester is about 180,000, that means that you have a .06% chance of getting bitten by a dog (or, at least, getting a bad enough bite that you’d report it).

According to the CDC, 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year in the US, and 800,000 seek medical attention.  That means that on the US as a whole, you have a 1.5% chance of being bitten and a .26% chance of needing medical attention from a dog bite.

Which means that Worcester seems safer, dog-bite-wise, than the country as a whole.

We were also told that 56 of those 122 bites were from pit bulls.  That means you’ve got a .03% chance of being bitten by a pit bull if you’re a Worcester resident.

As a result of these shocking statistics, the City Council decided to make sure that pit bulls are muzzled when off their property, that pit bull owners pay an additional licensing fee, and other measures that do absolutely nothing to stop biting incidents.

In anticipation of tomorrow’s implementation of the pit bull ordinance, WorcesterWired had a long article about a woman who was attacked by a pit bull.  The Telegram [behind the paywall] also reports that a pit bull was stabbed to death after attacking another dog.

What neither of these articles tells us is if the dogs were unneutered males.

The CDC says that “there is currently no accurate way to identify the number of dogs of a particular breed, and consequently no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill.”  The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) can tell you that “intact males are … involved in 70 to 76% of reported dog bite incidents.”  (I recommend reading the AVMA’s A community approach to dog bite prevention for a more comprehensive discussion of this topic.)

We don’t know how many dog bites in Worcester were caused by dogs off their leashes (because this is, of course, under the original ordinance).  We don’t know how many dog bites were caused by dogs on their owner’s property (which wouldn’t be affected by either ordinance).  We don’t know how many dog bites were caused by unneutered/intact male dogs. 

We don’t know any of these statistics because the City Council didn’t want to consider them when drafting this ordinance.  We continue to get news stories with “pit bull” in the title, instead of “intact male” or “unleashed dog” or “unlicensed dog” or any of a number of factors that are just as relevant to the issue of dog bites.

We need statistics to be kept that don’t just include the breed of the dog, but the location of the attack, whether the dog is licensed or unlicensed, fixed or not, healthy or unhealthy.  We need a news media more fully committed to giving the public an accurate depiction of the factors that lead to a dog bite.

We need a massive public education campaign about spaying and neutering dogs.  Frankly, I think we need to start identifying unneutered dogs in the same way we’re currently identifying pit bulls and offering real incentives (not $3 off a dog license) to those who spay and neuter their pets.  We need a thoughtful, rational approach that is lasting, not a quick fix that doesn’t have long-term goals (like increasing spay/neuter rates).

I know that what we need and what we’ll get are two very different things.  But a girl can dream!

Borders sale = underwhelming

I should’ve put this on “Cheap Worcester Wednesday”, but it was in Shrewsbury and wasn’t particularly cheap.  Unfortunately, “Overpriced Shrewsbury Thursday” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

The family and I went by Borders in Shrewsbury briefly on Sunday.  “Everything” in the “Entire Store” was on sale at 20-40% off, except — if you read the fine print — for limited exceptions.

Those limited exceptions included the whole children’s book section, which had books at 10% off and other stuff (Legos, Melissa and Doug, and other toys) at 20% off.  Now, I know I’m not the target market for new books (that is, I’m in the “Cheap Yankee” category that only responds to the sight of Jerry Ellis in cartoon form) but I really don’t understand how you can call a whole section of the store a limited exception and get away with it.

Fellow cheap-niks, I’d wait until they’re in deep discount mode before entering the store.

Germainism Of The Decade

Unfortunately, my devotion to covering public works meetings meant that I missed last night’s Mike Germain quote of the decade.

Yes, I pretty much dub every other quote of his is “The Quote Of The Decade.”  However, this really is it.  Before holding the tobacco control amendment under personal privilege, MG began to say the following before being cut off by the Mayor —

I’ve had more vices than anyone …

I know the mayor had to cut him off because once you hold something under personal privilege, you can’t say anything more.  (Though there was at least one report requested after the personal privilege hold.  Don’t ask me to explain that.  I think there was some politeness/let’s-not-drag-this-out-past-the-next-meeting stuff going on.) 

But I think at least one person watching at home was hoping for Germain to follow that sentence up by bursting into an impromptu Queen sing-along — “Mistakes, I’ve made a few…”

MG will not be at the next city council meeting, which prompted a commenter called mary to say the following on Daily Worcesteria:

What does Germain possibly have that is more important than being at the City Council meeting?

I’m sure Dave Goldberg could say it better than I could, but what could Germain have that isn’t more important than being at the City Council meeting?  Maybe he’s washing his hair that night!

The real problem, as I see it, is that the city experiences a marked decrease in self-deprecating one-liners every time Mike Germain doesn’t attend a City Council meeting.

I really don’t have an opinion on the is-he-or-isn’t-he-in-the-pocket-of-Big-Tobacco non-issue, because — unless there’s some massive subterfuge going on — you can just check out his campaign filings online.

Goodness knows why I like Mike Germain.  He’s like a less intelligent, really lazy version of Danny Blue.  Without the British accent.  Or, one hopes, the grifting.

But any man who can consistently give us quotes like “I always have something to offer” will always be a favorite of this blog.

Burns Bridge Public Info Meeting Liveblog, 3/29

(If you wanted to know if the Shrewsbury Town Hall has a simpler WiFi system than Worcester City Hall, the answer is…yes!  Except social networking sites like Twitter are not allowed…boo!)

There are about 40-50 people in the room, waiting for things to begin.  You can find more about the bridge and project here.

Joseph (whose last name I missed) from MassDOT opens the public meeting.  This meeting will be transcribed; I think it’s also going to be broadcast on Shrewsbury Public Access. 

March 2009 and March 2010 were previous public information meetings.  In the meantime, they’ve met with lake quinsig commission, DCR, local historic and conservation commissions.  Most recent meeting in September as part of MEPA process to meet on-site and have a meeting at Worcester Technical High School.  Announced steel deck arch as preference.

They got a group of engineers to take a look at everything the original designers have done (required by Federal Highway) to see if the design looks appropriate.  This group agreed with the design for the location.

An hour ago, met with boating communities to discuss their concerns.

Approaching 25% design phase of the project.  another four months of design.

Steel deck arch, 5 lanes, is essentially locked in.  Physical structure is done.  What they’d like tonight is for audience to review presentation and give feedback on lookouts, sidewalks, lighting elements, and other aesthetic elements.


Gary from Tran Systems (bridge engineer on record) will give his presentation now.

He introduced the Accelerated Bridge Program overall.  You can read more here.  He also goes over the consulting team for the project.

He’s giving a history of the project now, beginning with 2008.  The Preliminary Structures Report from Winter 2009 indicated that the bridge needed to be replaced; there were public hearings in March 2009 and after add’l work in March 2010. 


Concept Design Completed – Spring 2010

Preliminary design – Spring 2010 to Spring 2011

(sorry, couldn’t type fast enough)

Construction begins – early 2012

6:46: Bill Grace speaking now, discussing environmental progress.  Wetlands, Section 108, Water Quality, historic resources, sorry, I’m going to take a minute because I think you can get this in greater detail once the final notes come out.

The one piece that has not been filed is taking a small piece of parkland, which would need to be filed with the state legislature.

Gary from Tran Systems outlines the public outreach efforts; they’ve heard that recreation is important (especially increasing the clearance under the bridge), that pedestrian and bicycle accomodation is important, public safety and shoulder widths is important, aesthetic appeal is important, and water quality should be consistent during construction.

He’s showing  a cross-section of the existing bridge (tight, little shoulder, etc.).  New bridge would have three lanes in each direction, with turning radiuses.  Twelve-foot lanes, four-foot shoulders on westbound side; sidewalk to vary 7-11 foot wide, not including lookouts.  Difference on eastbound side: I think the sidewalks would be 7 foot wide consistently.

Traffic railing at curb to better protect pedestrians from traffic, and would allow more aesthetic railing on the outside.

First phase of construction would include demolition of south side pedestrian walk, two lanes of traffic on either side.  The second phase will switch to constructing the other side.

They will basically be constructing one side of the bridge and then the other side of the bridge.  The final bridge will have an open median.

There will be some improvements to lanes on Lane.  There will be a left-hand turning lane onto Lake Avenue (traveling into Worcester).

Extending a bike-only lane in between the through and lright turn only lanes up to Regatta State Park.

Will modify the end of Ramshorn Island to be disconnected from the bridge.

Stormwater runoff.  Right now, scuppers on the bridge.  The plan is to have pipes that would capture and treat the water before it goes into the lake. 

On Shrewsbury side, there’s a quick jut into the road; there will be an impact at former Bugaboo Creek area, perhaps have a landscape buffer (would affect the parking area but not that building).

7:00 – Two themes presenting: one is the lake theme, the other is the traditional theme for the 20-foot-wide median in Shrewsbury.

There has to be lighting on both sides with the traditional lighting theme; the lake theme has lights that are higher and thus spaced farther apart (and less of them). 

He shows a mockup of the overlooks in the traditional theme.  They want a transparent-looking railing (though with square lines).  [Nicole editorial — looks good].  The traditional railing could have medallions in it.  [Nicole recommendation — hearts!]

The lake theme has a more curved railing [Nicole editorial — looks better!]

The overlooks could have benches.

Perhaps have LED lighting in the rail for pedestrians in the lake theme.

There was some discussion of traditional light fixtures at overlooks; in that case, some of the LED may be eliminated.

Now we’re talking monuments at Lake Ave intersection.  Perhaps a sailboat?  Perhaps something that emulates the spire of Union Station?  [Perhaps move George Frisbie Hoar, says Nicole…]


Discussion of Bridge Profile. 

New bridge would have span of 240 feet, high point in the middle, low points off the bridge (for capturing runoff).  23 foot tall, 50 foot wide clearance in the middle.

(Incidentally, he’s showing some great video mockups of the bridge proposals.  Right now, it’s a video as if you’re in a speedboat going under the bridge.)

The color of the bridge is not set, but does need to be coordinated with historic commissions.  They want to stay with light colors to help light reflect off the bridge for those traveling underneath.

(I should also note that the sidewalks are proposed to be stamped concrete.)

Current lighting standard — there has to be a lot of them.  He’s showing night shots of the bridge, lights underneath the bridge.

Public Comment

Joseph Zecco from St. Anne’s Church.  Doesn’t have anything to do with the church.  With the pedestrian rail on the edge of the roadway, what will happen with snow events?  How will they move snow onto the bridge?

Answer: Typically, it’s a BR-2 railing.  The City of Worcester currently plows the sidewalk, but this might be a challenge for the city.  [I think this should be mentioned to the city.]

Zecco also talks about combining different types of lighting.  Answer: that’s possible.

Gerry Dio, Fire Chief in Worcester — access for fire trucks during construction?  [to high rise, etc.]

Answer: intent is to maintain two lanes in either direction.  During first phase, when bridge is built to the south, will build a bridge to accomodate what we have today (no wide shoulders).  Will maintain emergency access at all times.

Member of Lake Quinsigamond Commission (spoke too fast for me to get his name): pedestrian access for Lincoln Park Towers?

Answer: there will be a time (first phase of construction) where they will be detouring them to the North Side of the bridge, because that sidewalk will be demoed for first phase.   They will also try to improve signal timing to help the residents.  They had met with the residents at the Towers.

Member, asesthetic comments: likes monuments, perhaps related to rowing or fishing.  underneath the bridge, center arch, perhaps a related monument.

Donna O’Connor, town meeting member: loves the traditional look and loves the traditional railings.  She thinks both monuments were great.  Every Memorial Day, they historically march to the bridge.  Could there be a Veterans Memorial on the Shrewsbury side?

Answer: will put up some interpretive panels at each of four quadrants and will be discussing this further with historic commissions.

O’Connor: opening in the middle.  Could you get in a Skidoo and go from one end to the other in the middle of the bridge?

Answer: could look into closing the bridge at each pier.

Matt Beaton: high number of jet skiers and small watercraft.  As a former rower on the Lake, the bridge is named for Kenneth Burns…

He also mentions consideration for boats hung up under the bridge.

Answer: the 18-foot vertical clearance would be expanded to 23-foot.  As far as naming the bridge, the name will remain.

Peter Collins, Lake Commission: stairs?

Answer: intention not to have stairs on either side.  At Vinny T’s/Buca di Beppo, there will be emergency access, but not intending to build stairs.

Police rep: request stairs to be able to access behind Bugaboo.  Otherwise, would have to go all the way over to Maironis.

Answer: there will be land in front of the abutment,  you’d be able to walk from the Buca di Beppo side.  They will show him how you can access both sides after the meeting.

State Rep Jim O’Day – during the timeframe of this bridge, are we in competition with other bridges around the Commonwealth?  What is the closest bridge in scope, etc.?  This is not his favorite choice of bridge.  Are we getting the best bridge we can get for the money?  To him, this bridge looks like “an aircraft carrier.”

Answer: the speaker works in the mega project division.  Each bridge is different for each setting.  Similar scope in money, impacts, etc.  Longfellow Bridge is a major rehab, Four River is a moveable bridge, etc.  He has read all the comments on this.  Steel deck arch, five span bridge was best choice for all parameters, including public comment.

John S., town meeting member – left hand turning lane westbound, how many cars does this accomodate, would it back up?  On Worcester side, will there be a synchronized light for emergency vehicles?

Answer: have a traffic engineer.  Doesn’t know exact storage for left lane, they designed it to accomodate what will back up 95% of the time to year 2028.  To emergency vehicles, those lights will be completely updated with Opticom.  (The police officer indicates that there’s Opticom on both sides now.)  There will be communications cable between that signal and the Plantation Street intersection.  They will also be putting in communications to Lincoln Towers, and putting communications cable over the bridge.

Senator Chandler: important that a MA firm be engaged in building the bridge because this is a public project.  (This is not a requirement.)

Answer: it’s a federal highway project (80% federal).  Current bidding laws do not require where the contract to bid gets labor.  Contractors are pre-qualified with MassDOT.  Right now, do not have ability to restrict.  He will take it to their legal counsel.  They don’t have much flexibilty with the current bidding laws.

The member of the Quinsig Commission who speaks way too fast, again: likes lighting under the bridge.  A few more aesthetic comments.

Anne, lives near the lake: feels the area is already highly lit, a little less is better in terms of aesthetics.  Was wondering what prompted the under-lighting.

Answer: lighting comments from public meetings have indicated desire to highlight bridge from above and underneath.  City of Worcester suggested lighting the railings.  Minimum standards for lighting the roadways under law.  City of Worcester currently maintains lighting, and will continue to maintain lighting.

Another lady comments: thinks lights remind folks of the former excitement at White City.

Answer: interpretive panels…

Matt Hogan, town meeting member: statement bridge comment from O’Day.  Remember the arches from previous presentation.  Likes a lot of steps that are being taken.  “Every time we build something we don’t want to spend money…” but 30-40 years later, folks thank the previous folks for spending a bit more money.

Answer: lights will be part of this project, not Belmont Street project.

Hogan, continued: might want to continue theme of traditional lighting on bridge.  He likes blue.

Answer: City of Worcester’s preference was same/similar type of lighting for maintenance issues.

Another lady talks about the view from Umass onto the bridge and how it is a focal point.

Linda Sarkissian, Shrewsbury resident: pedestrian concerns. 

answer: signals provided will be countdown pedestrian signals, ADA buttons, more storage at islands, so better opportunities to cross.  Nothing will change at the Shrewsbury side pedestrian-wise.

Sarkissian, cont’d: how did they determine the width of the median?

answer: it was determined by phases of construction, and to minimize impacts and also to set it so there’s no longer a “jog” from Belmont Street onto the bridge.  If there was no opening, it wouldn’t make much of a difference.  Road alignment, construction considerations, and letting light in for those under the bridge were the three considerations.  Will have a safety rail just like other bridges [she had been concerned about cars driving over the bridge.]

Sarkissian, further comment: access on south side to the lake, hates to see that go.

Answer: one of the comments was that there were concerns about that being a hangout and graffiti.  Trying to make stairs and make it ADA accessible would be very difficult as well.

Karen Valentine, Worcester resident: pedestrian concerns.

Answer: minimum times they need to provide to pedestrians for walk signals.  To provide a crossing of that distance would kill traffic.  Did the best they could to maximize that.  They will hand this off to a design build contractor for timings.

Detailing guy/tinting guy concerned about dust from the project.

John Rickmeyerl, Shrewsbury, boating: only concern is overlighting and night vision for rowing/boating. 

Answer: there’s a lighting contractor that deals specifically with lighting.  There are different levels and it can be toned down quite a bit.

For Kate, I asked about the continuity between lighting on Shrewsbury and the bridge, and between Shrewsbury Street/proposed Belmont Street and the bridge.  They heard that, and others mentioned that concern as well.

I also wanted to confirm that there would be enough space on the lookouts around the benches for someone in a wheelchair to get onto the lookout.  They said there would be.

Kate had also asked about the High Street Bridge look.  I’m sure the notes for this meeting will be up soon, but it looked very similar to the High Street Bridge.  I think one of the differences would be that the color below would be a blue or green.

[the meeting is over]