Thursday, April 2, 2009

Grooming for the IOC at MSI

posted by richard gill

Mysterious Mega-Tent on Lawn of the Museum of Science and Industry

Isn't it nice, how there are city crews scurrying all over the park around the Museum of Science and Industry this morning (April 2), trimming trees, sweeping up litter, raking the grass around the curb lines, and even manicuring the beach? And I notice that the plastic bags have miraculously disappeared from the trees. And that huge fancy event tent that's been a-building for nearly a whole month has supply and catering trucks all around it. Normally, those big party tents are set up and taken down within a week; this one must be VERY special.

Maybe the International Olympics Committee is coming around. Y'think? Nah, it's just a coincidence of timing, especially that the beaches are getting smoothed almost three months before they officially open.

Smoothing the Sand at 57th Street Beach

I wonder how much this is costing us. If the Olympics come to Chicago, cronyism and corruption will pole-vault to new heights. We will all pay for it. Any other city that wants the Olympics can have it, in my opinion. Maybe Rio can deal with it.


Elizabeth Fama said...

It's the fanciest tent I'VE ever seen. It took a long time to erect because it's as sturdy as a house. (I wish you had taken time-lapse photos of the construction, Richard.) It even has real, glass-and-steel entry doors.

GF said...

I'm against the Olympics but I'm all for having the IOC visit every so often. I've never seen so many potholes get filled so fast around here. And roads in Washington Park got completely repaved. I don't drive through there very often but I've come very close to losing tires and probably wheels several times. Some of those holes seemed large enough to swallow a bus.

Elizabeth Fama said...

You transportation aficionados might know the answer to this: I thought I read somewhere that there's a way to build roads so that the occurrence of potholes is minimized. I think the article said it was 30% more expensive to build roads that way, so they usually go for the quick and dirty solution instead -- which allows the roads to function well and look good for, um, let's say one mild winter. It seems like the City thought ahead with the $245 million tunnel "crossover shell" that was discussed in the comment section of Dick's previous train post -- why can't they be so thoughtful with road building?

edj said...

I am all for the Olympics to Chicago. It's nice to have a big tent set up at the site of the 1893World's Columbian Exposition (Represented by star number 3 on the Chicago flag) for an event to promote the hosting of an event that would represent star number five on the flag. We need these kind of big events once in a while. It stirs the blood or the soul or however they're quoting Burnham now.

Plus it will likely get devlopment going in the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

I'm good with the Olympics coming here, too. I think the folks against it have some good points, but overall, I think the benefits would outweigh the negatives.

And if this plan to pay for it out of private money really works, even better. If nothing else, maybe it would be the kick in the behind the city needs to get certain things done.

Richard Gill said...

"...why can't they be so thoughtful with road building?"

I can go into some detail about how railroad track behaves under extreme weather, but I'm less conversant with regard to pavement. However, the two dominant highway paving materials—asphalt and concrete—each have their pros and cons. Both have their own lobbying groups, aka "institutes." Since almost all road-building is in the public sector, lobbying is, well you know.

I believe asphalt is generally cheaper than concrete and is driveable almost immediately after being placed. Concrete is more expensive and needs time to cure. Concrete roads tend to have a longer service life than asphalt if properly built (mixture, thickness, layering, curing time, subsurface etc). Concrete is great under truck or bus axle loadings if done correctly, but will spall badly if not. Also, concrete can be grooved for added vehicle stability.

For city streets, asphalt is easier to pothole-patch (neither material is impervious to freeze/thaw cycles), but the quick stuff (cold patch) doesn't last long. One problem with asphalt is that even so-called "permanent" repairs might simply add a new layer, and the layers can pull apart under traffic.

Both materials can be recycled, or re-used. Even ground-up glass can be mixed in. Asphalt is petroleum-based, which may get to be a disadvantage for it.

Requests for Proposals for major bridges often allow for both steel and concrete alternatives. The same may be true for highway RFPs (concrete vs asphalt).

Often, the deciding difference in major bridge construction (assuming specs for safety, capacity, life cycle etc are met) is aesthetics, since bridges are highly visible and are regarded as area-defining monumental projects. The winning design may depend on which firm has the best graphics and "visualization" staff to create a winning Power Point presentation. Does this remind anybody of the Olympics bidding process?

edj said...

Permeable ashphalt and concrete are both starting to show some promise in this part of the country. Both allow water to pass through to the ground rather than being channeled into storm sewers. The big issue has been whether the freeze that cycles would cause the road to crumble faster. I heard about some studies that indicate that aloowing water to go into the ground actually leads to fewer potholes because rather than staying on the surface, it is allowed to go to the ground. SInce permeable asphalt usually has crumb rubber in it, it allows some better expansion/contraction, unlike current mixes.

Now permeable asphalt is important because right now because it would mean less stormwater going into our combined sewers (sanitary and storm water mixes in Chicago and all is treated by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and discharged down the Mississippi River system. Permeable asphalt or concrete, by keeping rainwater waway from the treatment system, would lead to fewer combined sewer overflows when the treatment system is overwhelmed by large rains. Less crap going into the Sanitary and Ship Canal and Lake Michigan.

Plus, all the water that goes into the ground is not counted against the allocation of water that Illinois gets under a Supreme Court consent decree, freeing up water for use more efficintly elsewhere.

We now return you to your scheduled program already in progress.

chicago pop said...

I am now a convert to the use of permeable asphalt, edj. Thank you.

Richard Gill said...

I'm in favor of whatever surfacing material will help keep the streets from going to hell every winter. If permeable asphalt, or something else, shows promise, will CDOT be pro-active in jumping on it, or will it take a revolt (citizens to aldermen to City Hall) to move them? Just wondering.

For all those potholes repaired in Washington Park last week (pre-OIC visit), I wonder if a cheap/quick fix was used, or something better? Probably the latter; wouldn't want the IOC's limos to hit bumps.

jmogs said...

On permeable pavement and asphalt---I believe the City has already begun a program to experiment with these materials in alleys in a few neighborhoods. The cost is comparable, but there are concerns about durability. I think the city is very interested in moving forward with water permeable paving in alleys throughout the city for all the reasons EDJ mentions.

On MWRD---I get concerned with the word "treated" related to them as the continue to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to fight the wishes of the state and city to disinfect water put into the Chicago River (making it one of the only waterways treated with such official disdain).

nate said...

They clearly didn't have the IOC folks drive up Stony Island -- the potholes there are out of control! I just about lost a filling when I hit one and clapped my jaw shut the other day...

And, um, Chicago 2016!

WoodLawn Jack said...

I'm not sure how contracts are handled for city streets but for stuff like LSD and expressways I think one option is to do the bidding based on not only construction but also for repair. If a company knows they have to not only build the road but also maintain it for 10 years I think you'd start to see better quality materials.

As far as the "new" cement stuff--I believe the alley between University and Woodlawn off of 61st street is made from the new stuff. There apparently are 3 types--permeable asphalt, permeable concrete, and pavers--the one in question is the concrete variety. At both ends of the alley there is a "Green Alley" stamp.

Of course the story behind the alley is political. The former alderman got many/most/or all of the alleys in woodlawn redone--except for one. The one that is now green. Curiously, that alley is on the block that the new alderman lives on and all the other alleys were done the year before the election. After the previous alderman lost the election and the new alderman came to power the alley was redone with concrete. The other alleys in the area seem to all be black asphalt.

So you now have a concrete example of the green alleys and of chicago politics.

Richard Gill said...

I learned today that the mega-tent at MSI is not Olympics-related. It's for the Harry Potter exhibit. No wonder it's built like a castle.

I had good reason to be suspicious. Everyone should be suspicious of anything that even looks like it might be related to the Olympics. The city of Chicago, led by Hizzoner, will spend its citizens into the ground in order to bring in the 2016 Olympics and to stage the thing. And the accompanying corruption and graft will cost us even more. I'm rooting for Rio.