Tag Archive: bridge

  1. New Haven bridge up for national award


    The recently renovated Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven is in the running for one of the nation’s most prestigious awards for transportation infrastructure.

    On Sept. 9, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials announced that the bridge, which carries Interstate 95 over the Quinnipiac River, was among 12 construction projects chosen out of 84 to advance to the Grand Prize competition in the America’s Transportation Award. The award is an annual effort to recognize outstanding engineering feats in the field of highways and transportation and will be announced on Nov. 14.

    “The new Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge is a beautiful, welcome new feature in [New Haven]; its pleasing aesthetics are as enjoyable as the undeniable traffic improvements,” Mayor Toni Harp said in a statement to the News. “It’s more evidence of a city moving forward, making New Haven even more attractive to new residents, businesses and visitors.”

    The bridge — referred to as the “Q-bridge,” in reference to the river it spans — gained attention among experts in the transportation community in July 2015 after renovations to replace the old six-lane girder bridge with the new, uniquely designed 10-lane bridge were completed. Those renovations, which started in 2008, constituted the biggest project ever undertaken by the Connecticut Department of Transportation to date and employed a modern design new in the U.S., according to the State Department of Transportation project engineer Matthew Briggs, who has worked on the bridge for the past eight years.

    On June 7, AASHTO recognized the new bridge for its “best use of innovation” in the competition’s “large project” category. For that earlier award, the bridge was selected from projects in the northeastern U.S., while the final round of awards underway now considers projects from across the country.

    This is the ninth year America’s Transportation Award is shining light on transportation projects across the nation. The organization has teamed up with the American Automobile Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a joint effort to highlight the importance of transportation infrastructure.

    “The competition was created to showcase those transportation projects that the public never really notices despite the fact that they’re improving safety and making travel safer and more reliable,” AASHTO Manager of Media Relations Tony Dorsey said.

    He pointed out that approximately 300 million trips are taken on America’s roadways each day and added that the wellbeing of such infrastructure has implications for the economy and the population’s productivity.

    The Q-bridge is now in the running for two final awards from the organization: the People’s Choice Award and Grand Prize. The recipient of the former is decided based on the number of online votes, which can be cast by anyone who wishes to do so, while the recipient of the latter is chosen by a panel of transportation experts and indicates “the best of the best,” according to Dorsey. Both prizes will be awarded alongside a $10,000 grant to be donated to a charity chosen by the respective state’s DOT.

    When the old Q-bridge was erected in 1958, it was the also the longest bridge of its kind in the western hemisphere. It could accommodate 40,000 trips per day, which Briggs said was impressive for that era. As traffic volume has risen over time, however, the structure started failing to accommodate the 140,000 vehicles that now rely on its service.

    The new bridge boasts four more lanes than its predecessor and can accommodate an estimated 160,000 vehicles per day. Briggs told the News that Connecticut was able to complete the renovations in time and under budget, with the project’s cost totaling about $416.7 million.

    “It’s a magnificent bridge,” Briggs said. “We believe it to be the signature bridge of the state of Connecticut and a gateway to southern New England.”

    He added that the department is proud to have been recognized for their work but that the nomination only validates what he and his team “knew all along” — that the Q-bridge is a special bridge.

    The Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge spans approximately 4,200 feet.

    Correction, Oct. 28: Due to an editorial error, a previous version of this article misstated the total cost of the Q-bridge’s renovation.

  2. Verse-Chorus-Bridge to Nowhere

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    James Brown did so many substances that it’s surprising how little substance there is to his music. This isn’t a knock against James Brown: He made some great stuff, but he did so through great performances, not great artistry. It’s hard to imagine him fulfilling the legend of the tortured rock star. James Brown had a recipe for his music: some funky guitar, some funky brass and lyrics about how funky (insert noun) was. A verse, a chorus and a bridge using those ingredients, and he had a song. It was a great recipe, don’t get me wrong, but he made his music by putting together fairly static pieces. On many songs, you can hear him ordering his band to “take it to the bridge,” the equivalent of “needs more salt!”

    The godfather of soul is hardly the only artist to use formulaic constructions. Much traditional jazz can be reduced to an A-A-B-A form; probably half of all rock songs ever written use a verse-chorus-bridge schematic. You can have horizontal formulas like these, laid out along the length of the song, or vertical formulas like James Brown’s timeless cocktail of funky guitar, horns and self-referential exhortations of funk. In both cases, a new song can grow on the skeleton of an old one. But it can be ambiguous whether a formulaic song is really its own song, or a new coat of paint on an old one.

    There’s plenty to be said for songs that rely on time-tested axioms. The instant familiarity of a song that works exactly as you expect can be comforting rather than boring; songs with instant popular appeal often employ fairly basic construction instead of dragging listeners through a maze of unexpected changes. A verse-chorus-bridge formulation can also serve as scaffolding for interior brilliance; no one ever accused Bob Dylan of being a compositional genius, but holding that against him would be missing the point of his music. Nirvana might have exaggerated the verse-chorus-bridge structure more than anyone else by the characteristic differences between their moody verses and explosive choruses, but Nevermind that because their music was amazing anyways. In short, we have these formulas because they work.

    Yet anyone who has ever half-napped through microeconomics will be acquainted with the law of diminishing returns, and that certainly applies here. Doing the same thing over and over, whether it’s producing widgets or writing jazz songs using A-A-B-A, gets old. Yes, the old formulas are familiar, but eventually they stop being reliable and start getting redundant. Axioms can be the foundation for brilliance, but as they become more and more rote, songs have to employ them more and more judiciously to avoid sounding stale — it’s much harder to write a fresh-sounding verse-chorus-bridge song now than it was in the days of Led Zeppelin, who, as much as I love them, were the kings of verse-chorus-bridge. Anyone who releases an album full of verse-chorus-bridge songs today is liable, even likely, to get roundly panned by critics.

    The critics’ view always has to be taken with a grain of salt, but they have a very legitimate gripe here. The old formulas work, but as they get used and reused, there’s less and less space for a truly novel reinterpretation or appropriation. It’s lazy, even cheating, in some sense, to repurpose an old formula without somehow making it your own. If no one innovates, we end up with a lot of complacent music indistinguishable from older sounds. That the old formulas work makes it that much more impressive to create something powerful without using them. The accolades heaped on innovative artists like the Dirty Projectors or Titus Andronicus acknowledge and reflect such an achievement.

    And yet I’m sure that at this very moment, someone somewhere is writing a song that would move me to tears with its verse-chorus-bridge simplicity. Not because of it, but despite it. A great song is a great song, formulaic or not. It’s just that, using the old formulas, fewer and fewer remain to be written.