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An informative and entertaining discussion on our ferries and highways with Kitsap Sun reporters.
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Archive for August, 2010

Manette Bridge: Let the Augering Begin

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

To me, life can be a lot like building a new bridge.

Here’s why: When looking at the complete picture, the tasks ahead can seem daunting. But when taking on things one piece on at a time, life’s projects become doable.

I was in awe watching the second Tacoma Narrows Bridge go up, and now, those of us in Bremerton get a front row seat to the $57.8 million project to build a new Manette Bridge.

If you’ve taken the rickety 80-year-old bridge recently, you know it’s, well, aged. But Washington State Department of Transportation officials say it’s worse than might you think. Using a 100-point scale for “structural sufficiency” (100 being a brand new bridge) they say that bridges with a score of 80 or less demand corrective action. Ones 50 or less are eligible for federal funding.

And the Manette Bridge scored a whopping 16.8.

So we’re getting a new bridge. I’ll be shooting videos, showcasing the construction by contractor Manson and Mowat, until they get ‘er done in early 2012.

What you’re seeing in this first video is the installation of giant steel tubes that will be soon be filled with concrete and form the bridge’s piers. Here’s more from Ed Friedrich’s report:

“… They’re working on steel pilings to support the platform, said Jeff Cook, project engineer for the state Department of Transportation. After the platform is built, a drilling rig will be placed on it. The rig will set a permanent casing — a 12-foot-diameter steel tube — down to the hardpan beneath the Port Washington Narrows. Soil will be augered out of the tube, then a rebar carriage will be placed inside and concrete poured for the shaft. Then it’s on to the next pier. There are two shafts for each pier and eight piers overall.”


The Drunk Who Got Away

Friday, August 20th, 2010

I felt bad on the way to work the other day that I didn’t turn in a drunk driver. He or she could’ve killed somebody.

I generally like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and don’t take calling 911 lightly, but this guy was bad off. He was trying to drive in the slow lane, but bounced in an out of the fast lane and shoulder all the way from Purdy to Bremerton. It was 8:30 in the morning. Was he hung over from partying all night? Did he get up and start hitting the bottle? I have a beer now and then, but I’ve never been wasted at 8:30 in the morning.

The guy had a hard time getting through Gorst, continuing to weave and hit the brakes. There’s no way everone else couldn’t have noticed him, too. Every time I tried to catch up to him and get his license plate number, he took off. I though of just calling in a description of the car, but it was nondescript. Nondescript color, kind of bluish-greenish-silvery. Nondescript car, your typical little … I don’t know what.

Coming along Sinclair Inlet, I though if he dumps it in the bay, I’ll try to help but I’m not let this idiot drown me. To his credit, he kept it on the road. Last I saw he was headed north on Highway 3 near the auto center. Hopefully somebody else was able to report him.


Put the Hammer Down on Texter-Drivers

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

A new PEMCO Insurance poll shows that although the number of Washingtonians who text while driving has increased, most drivers support the new no-texting fines or think they should be even higher.

The fine is $124. Forty-four percent of those surveyed think that’s about right, 40 percent believe it should be higher while just 11 percent feel it’s too high.

Evidently, younger drivers don’t believe talking on the phone while driving is as dangerous as texting. Those 35 years old or younger think a $124 is too much for a cell phone fine, according to the survey.

I don’t quite fit into that demographic, but I’d have to agree with those kids. I’m not too good with a cell phone. I don’t know how to get directions from it, watch TV, create and listen to my own radio station, send money from my savings to my checking, keep a calendar, send myself reminders of doctor appointments or friends’ birthdays, and the multitude of other things they can do these days. But I can push a button when it rings and say hello. That’s not crazily dangerous. Like when I dump a story on the editors and run out the door, you can bet they’re going to call me on the way home about something. As soon as my kid figures out what’s wrong with my blue tooth, I’ll even be able to talk to them legally.

Calling somebody while driving is a different story. If the person is in my contacts list, I can pull it off, though I still have to glance at the screen and away from the road to scroll through the numbers. If I have to punch in a number, forget it. Now take that degree of difficulty and multiply it by lots when you talk about texting.

I am proud of myself for being a dinosaur who can text in the most primitive form. It takes my full concentration, however, and I keep messages short because it’s so hard. Not trying it while driving is totally self-preservation. I know people get really good at it, but not good enough to text and drive at the same time. If caught, I think the cops should take their phone away. That’d probably be a better deterrent than a $124 fine, cutting off their entire communications network.


Curse of the Cracked Oil Pan

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Been sitting here at home for a day and a half now waiting for the shop to fix my cracked oil pan. It shouldn’t be that hard, or expensive.

They need to replace the pan, which costs $80, but the total will be close to $400. Boy do I miss the days when you could do this stuff yourself. Not really. Most of the time I’d screw something up and have to take it to the shop anyway and pay twice as much. But there were a few successes.

In the old days I could just pop the plug, drain the oil, throw it in the woods or bury it in a hole, ratchet out the oil pan bolts, replace the seal, stick the bolts back in and refill it with oil. It didn’t matter which grade. I only remember 30 weight. Back on the road in a couple hours.

My Accord pan wanders all over the place and half the bolts are hiding behind something. Figures. You need a special tool just to change the oil filter unless you’re a contortionist. It’s pinned between the back of the engine and the firewall, down low. There’s no way a normal person can bend his arm that many directions and still put some torque on the slippery thing. About all an average guy can do anymore is fill the oil and fluid containers. Maybe change the plugs. Don’t even think about the timing. You need to have a degree in computer science. Maybe that’s why I’m paying $400 for an oil pan replacement.

How did I get that microcrack in the pan? Hmmm? I’m not driving any different. Don’t remember high-centering on anything. So what’s new? Well, there’s that 16-year-old kid who’s been driving my car at nights. He doesn’t want to take his old Ford pickup because of the gas mileage, though he’s never personally put any gas in it. Don’t let him read this. He gets real defensive. Says he takes great care of my car. OK, I guess, but that $400 really hurts. I’m basically working all week for nothing.

So much has changed. For good or bad, I don’t know.

Had an old Subaru station wagon that I could pull the engine out of in about an hour. It’s was smaller than most motorcycle motors. Disconnect a couple plugs, undo a few bolts and lift it out, all by my scrawny self. Got pretty good at it because the head gasket kept blowing, I’m sure because I’m the one who kept replacing it. You were supposed to torque it in a certain order, but I didn’t have a torque wrench. A few months later there was water blowing out the tailpipe again. I was broke and head gaskets were cheap so I’d just keep changing it.

That same time, in the early 1980s, my wife had a yellow Volkswagen fastback. It was a heavy slug, but she loved it because it was her first car. It crapped out so I took the motor apart piece by piece. I cleaned them up beautifully and carried them up the pull-down stairs in the house we rented over the water in Fragaria. It was haunted up there because some guy got blitzed and drowned in his own vomit. At least that’s what the legend was. But I was OK in the daytime.

I followed this “Idiot” manual and got the engine put back together. But it weighed hundreds of pounds and I couldn’t get it down the little stairs. Got a friend to help and let him be at the bottom. The engine put a big divot in his arm. Not much I could do from up above.

Got the engine back in but couldn’t get it running. It had fuel injection, which I didn’t understand. Had to take it to a mechanic for the final work. But I bet I could’ve replaced the oil pan for 50 bucks.