| Schutze |

Talkin' Shit About the Calatrava Bridge

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D has posted an item on its blog, FrontBurner, reporting that I traveled by kayak out to the Calatrava bridge site and defecated on the bridge to show my disapproval. The item, written by D Major Domo Tim Rogers, was satirical and not meant to be taken seriously. But a commenter who calls himself "traindbrain" (I'll be the judge of that) has posted remarks apparently taking the item seriously.

Traindbrain has offered the opinion that it was wrong of me to defecate on the bridge and suggesting that I may have done it because I have too much time on my hands. Traindbrain also offers the observation that my name sounds like the word "shit," which he thinks could be an alternative explanation for my act.

I feel a little uncomfortable vowing that I have not, in fact, defecated on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, and I am sure even as I say it that someone will misquote Shakespeare's "doth protest too much" as usual. But I did not defecate on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. On those rare occasions when I may have too much time on my hands, my boredom never inspires me to defecate on things.

Traindbrain does make one observation with which I cannot argue. Pronounced a certain way, my name can be made to sound like "shit" or "shits" or "shitzee." This is a reality that many American children with German surnames must confront at least by the time they are old enough to go to recess in kindergarten. By the time we get to be my age, we've pretty well toughened up to it.

I did write what I thought was a substantive response to the item -- not bitching about being portrayed as a defecator but dealing with the question of when a bridge is a bridge. I quoted a Webster's definition of bridge to show that a thing is not a bridge until you can use it to pass from one side of the river to the other. Which is what I really want to talk about.

The Margaret-Hunt Hill object will not be a bridge until Dallas finds a way to connect it to its approaches. I'm not saying that will never happen, but it's a long way off and a very difficult problem to solve. The connection to the approaches is over and through the levee system. The levee system, as we know, has been decertified by the federal government and must be substantially rebuilt.

City officials have said the main two fixes they are considering are a concrete curtain wall down to bedrock beneath the levees and a "fattening" as they call it of the levees themselves. There is a good chance the curtain wall, if selected as a viable option, might have to extend the full length of the 23-mile levee system, at depths of as much as 60 feet. In many areas, it will involve pouring concrete in an environment of flowing "water sands" -- never an easy task.

The fattening probably can't be done except by scraping the levee system we have now and rebuilding it, especially since these levees have already been fattened once before simply by having more dirt piled on them -- never considered a safe way of doing it by engineers. New dirt piled on top tends to slough off in heavy rain. The right way is to scrape the levees to the ground and rebuild them with the right kinds of dirt layered and tied in to each other the right way.

City officials have told the council all of this can be done for $150 million. That's just other-worldly absurd. It's an amount of construction equivalent to that toll road they want to build out there, which was clocking in at $2 billion last time I checked.

So we're talking about a big bond election. The common wisdom is that voters would never shoot down a bond election for flood safety. But if that toll road is still in the pie -- which it will be because local leaders can't afford to admit how stupid they have been about it -- then all bets are off.

So what is City Hall's real plan? You can see it in this briefing.

Search for the word "Illinois." You will find the section where staff assures the council it is approaching this challenge by joining a national effort to persuade the congress to back off strict enforcement of flood control standards.

I think this is symptomatic of a syndrome I'm writing about in my column this week (on another topic entirely -- low income housing downtown). Somebody at Dallas City hall hasn't noticed that the Republicans no longer control the White House. Flood control has less to do with legislation than with administrative rules.

All of the credible indications we can see out there on a broad array of issues should lead us to assume that enforcement of federal regs is going to be tougher, not more slack, at least until there's a major turnover in Washington.

And even if that happens, is Dallas or any other city really going to be comfortable with a slackening of flood control regulation, given all of the indications that we need to be going in the opposite direction?

So,. Just saying. It ain't a bridge yet. I don't see it becoming a bridge any time soon. As I told D, you know what I see when I look out the windows of the Observer and watch it rising out there? A big giant municipal dunce cap. A Calatrava dunce cap, no less. Aren't we special?

So that's my two-bit opinion, and I sign out as your faithful correspondent on all things bridge,

Forever yours,
Mr. Jim Shit Shits Shitzee Schutze.

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