Dalton Highway, Alaska

With so many eyes turning northward at this time of year, we thought we take a look at the northernmost highway in the United States, Alaska’s Dalton Highway.

The Dalton Highway (Alaska highway 11) begins north of Fairbanks and extends northward towards Prudhoe Bay along the Arctic Ocean. It actually ends a few miles short of the ocean in the town of Deadhorse (what a great name!) with private roads covering the remaining distance. The southern section of the highway passes through the state’s forested interior, and on the E.L. Patton Yukon River Bridge. This is apparently the only bridge crossing the Yukon River in Alaska.

[Photo by Stan Stebs via Wikimedia Commons.]

As one gets further north, the trees disappear and highway winds its way through the sparse and undulating terrain as a narrow gravel road parallel to the pipeline. It is this landscape that perhaps most uniquely defines this road.

The stark landscape of clean rolling hills and muted greens looks quite interesting and inviting.  But it is easy to forget that it does get very cold and covered in snow and ice for quite a bit of the year, and can be quite treacherous.

The landscape flattens out and becomes more barren as the highway approaches its northern terminus near the Arctic Ocean. It ends at a very unassuming intersection at the edge of a lake in Deadhorse, as seen is this image from Google Street View:

It looks like the left turn leads into the town itself, which includes the sign shown to the left and where one can book tours to the coast.  The right turn appears to lead towards the oil installations, with street view stopping at a gate.  Interestingly, the entire length of the highway can been seen on Google Street View. I can only imagine the scene of one of the Google cars traveling alone along the road.

Alaska is one of six states in the U.S. I have not yet visited. If I do make it there, I would like to see this highway. But probably not during the winter.

Weekend Cat Blogging and Photo Hunt: One

Today’s combined Weekend Cat Blogging and Photo Hunt features the theme of ONE.

Of course, there is only one Luna. No one can dispute that.  And this particular pose features one paw sticking out.

We also veer away from cats and into the realm of highways with California Highway 1. This view from Pescadero (between San Francisco and Santa Cruz) is a quintessential image of our coastal highway.

This one is further north, crossing over a harbor in Fort Bragg, in Mendocino County.

Although thought am sure I have lots of images of Highway 1, they have become rather hard to keep track of in the ever increasing library.   (It’s hard to keep track of all the Luna photos as well, for that matter.)  Tagging and naming files does help, but I would like to use image similarity search as well. Does anyone have any suggestions for this?

Weekend Cat Blogging #323 is hosted by Samantha and Clementine at Life from a Cat’s Perspective

The Photo Hunt #278 is hosted by tnchick. This week’s theme is one.

The Carnival of the Cats will be hosted this Sunday by Nikita and Elvira at Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat.

And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

Wordless Wednesday: Cooper River Bridge, South Carolina

Bruckner Interchange, again and again

In writing about my trip to New York, where better to begin than with our old friend the Bruckner Interchange:

Most of my trips to New York pass through this interchange, which connects to and from JFK Airport via I-678 (the Whitestone Bridge and Van Wyck Expressway); and north into Westchester via Hutchinson River Parkway. However, this trip involved more encounters that most, and indeed a “complete” tour of the major connections. First, north via Whitestone Bridge via the Hutch on arrival. On departure, we came east along the Bruckner Expressway (I-278) and again to the Whitestone. Our family events involved travelling from Westchester to Long Island, again via the Whitestone Bridge. For the return trip, we took the Throgs Neck Bridge (I-295) and the Cross Bronx Expressway (I-295, I-95).

I almost always use the Whitestone for travel to and from Queens and Long Island, so it had been years since I travelled on the Throgs Neck Bridge. It seems in dire need of maintenance. Big rust spots do not give one a sense of confidence when travelling on a major bridge 150 feet above water. I would expect folks to take maintenance very seriously after the Minneapolis bridge collapse this summer. Especially after I find articles like this

Wordless Wednesday: Pescadero Creek (Highway 1)

Minneapolis bridge update

From MarketWatch:

It is not yet known why or how the bridge collapsed, but Minnesota and Minneapolis officials have said the likely cause was “structural failure.”

No, you think?

I have more comments and recommended reading over at my DailyKos page. I am particularly going to watch if any of the Katrina comparisons play out. I'm also wondering if Alaska's “projects” are going to get another strong look?

I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis

Once again, the news intersects with our interests here at CatSynth, this time in a disastrous and tragic way. From AP:

MINNEAPOLIS – An interstate bridge jammed with rush-hour traffic suddenly broke into huge sections and collapsed into the Mississippi River Wednesday, pitching dozens of cars 60 feet into the water and killing at least seven people.

The eight-lane Interstate 35W bridge, a major Minneapolis artery, was in the midst of being repaired and two lanes in each direction were closed when the bridge buckled.

[AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Brian Peterson]

Here is what the bridge looked like for the 40 years it spanned the river:

[Todd Murray]

And here's a piece of what's left after the collapse:

[AP Photo: Adam Wolf]

Between this last photo and the first, one can see that there was a total and complete structural failure, and tragically one that happened during a busy rush hour, killing several people and injuring more. It must have been incredibly frightening to watch the bridge collapse, or be on it as the road buckeled and cracked and suddenly one ends up 50 feet down on the river. We at CatSynth extend our sympathies to those who lost friends or family is this tragedy.

Of course, people are already beginning to ask what could cause a bridge like this to completely fall apart like this? The construction on the bridge comes to mind, but apparently that was just on the roadway and “None of it would be related to the structure” [AP]. As for the structure:

Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Wednesday night that no structural deficiencies were found during bridge inspections in 2005 and 2006. The bridge deck was scheduled to be replaced in 2020 at the earliest, Pawlenty said, and legislators offered a similar assessment.

But public reports on the bridge raised questions about its safety.

In 2005, inspectors from the Minnesota Department of Transportation deemed the bridge “structurally deficient,” in data submitted to the Federal Highway Administration's National Bridge Inventory.[Pioneer Press]

I did not know there was a National Bridge Inventory. Some more detailed structural engineering (from the same Pioneer Press article):

The I-35W bridge apparently is what state transportation officials consider a “fracture critical” bridge, meaning it has at least one critical tension member whose failure would be expected to result in a collapse of the bridge…
…engineers said the fatigue cracking was a serious issue due to the lack of redundancy in the main truss system. Only two planes supported eight lanes of traffic, they wrote.

“The truss is determinate and the joints are theoretically pinned,” the report states. “Therefore, if one member were severed by a fatigue crack, the plane of the main truss would, theoretically, collapse.”

At first, the description sounded to me like the classic resonance or self-excitation collapses, as described on this site. But it sounds like all that was needed was one well-placed beam to give, and the whole thing would fall apart. We'll see what info continues to come out in the following days…