With all the impediments facing the South East High Speed Rail Corridor, one would not be amiss in thinking NCDOT would be all behind the success of the project, right? Well, as one begins to examine the various factions, sides and opinions, some very peculiar omissions and, um -- misdirection begin to emerge. As everyone who keeps up with such things knows by now one of the major points of contention that threatens to steer or in fact scuttle the entire project is the closure of roadways which cross the intended route(s). I've been to the meetings, read the official papers and kept up with news/opinions.
Most of the public comment on HSR, from Raleigh to Roxboro, include concerns about potential disconnections via road closure. Well they should, for within the current parameters road closures could have the opposite effect of what rail promises, enhanced connections and improved transportation options as well as critical, primary decisions on the route of the corridor. So why, I ask, or rather how, amid all the hoopla, has one key detail on that critical matter managed to have been exempt, conveniently forgotten – or worse, possibly downplayed deliberately for some purpose, say to obtain some sort of economic or policy leverage? A missing link is the sealed corridor concept.
Sealed corridors represent a potential solution to the most significant hurdle to SEHSP. A sealed corridor is one that can be cut off selectively from conflicting modes, cars and other trains via minimal infrastructural changes, so-called 4 quadrant gates and the like, which would obviate the unfortunate need for road closure. Four-quadrant gates are a variation on the familiar one per side gates, i.e. four per intersection, which discourage or render impossible the careless, drunk and/or foolhardy from crossing a busy track and getting creamed. Throughout the current period of public debate, I never heard of the sealed corridor concept. I first learned about the sealed corridors concept from a source outside of the current debate, very curious considering the origins and widespread utility of the idea.
From the Federal Railroad Administration's High Speed Grade Crossing Guidelines:
The State of North Carolina has pioneered many of the subsequent advances on the North Carolina Railroad under the concept of a “Sealed Corridor.” NCDOT defines the concept as follows ... redundant and/or unsafe crossings are consolidated through closure and/or grade separation and all remaining public crossings are equipped as appropriate with four quadrant gates, median separators and longer gate arms [my bold]
You read right. Suddenly a heretofore unknown detail offers a way out of the closure conundrum. I like to think of myself as fairly well informed but find it quite peculiar and somewhat suspicious that an advance wrought by a North Carolina agency is MIA from a debate -- in the very state where said advances could stand to radically alter the end result. What do you think? What is even odder is that I was not the only one who was bereft of this important piece of data. Of all the coverage in the local news, only Bob Geary, a former colleague of mine at the Independent, included the detail; it was absent from all other news sources, the N&O and the myriad broadcast media, so it isn't just me. I will go ahead and be bold and express the only two possibilties: the omission of the sealed corridor concept was either A LIE of omission or a ham-handed attempt to control the debate by some person or agency in a North Carolina government agency, read NCDOT or NCRR. Go ahead, boys and girls of the press, tear yourselves away from Lindsey Lohan, dig in and figure it out.
But there's another detail lost in the mists of time that gives the guilty needle a twitch. Some of y'all might remember Triangle Transit's early attempt to foster light rail in the Triangle. Some of the better informed still in possession of a memory: remember why light rail foundered? Give up? 'Cause NCRR, like some petulant snot-nosed Trustifarian, refused to let anyone come and play in their sandbox aka the NCRR right of way. Well that seems like very odd behavior for a corporation, a railroad OWNED BY THE PEOPLE of North Carolina, actively preventing infrastructure advances in the very business they are in, namely providing passenger rail for its citizens. Were I to hazard a guess as to why, seems that like any other for-profit corporation, the NCRR wants to stack the deck in their favor, at the expense of reasonable alternatives, or maybe as my all-seeing brother claimed, it is simply for the small-minded expedience of an easy way to keep that pesky High Speed Rail out of their yard
Nice job, Bob. Sure was fun knocking around with you Derek and Tom that night, wallowing in the history of the old gal and the promise of what lies ahead.The work is making Hillsborough more like lower Manhattan than Raleigh. I hope the merchants can survive the job.
There have been some changes, said the Indys new editor, Lisa Sorg as I returned the phone message. The other shoe. So ends my twenty year relationship with the Independent, one that began with a Front Porch piece in 1987.
Honestly, I was relieved. I knew what was going on, I could feel it. I had been on tenterhooks for months, not knowing, a decrease in length and pay. My emails and phone messages remained unanswered, all part of the changes I suppose.
Now, over. I can get on with it.
When I look through my life, all the careers I have had, the only thing I ever really liked, besides courier, was that of columnist, to amuse, provoke and educate other people with a variant view on conventional wisdom, sadly deficient in the nooz business, and getting worse.
Thus we tend to see more accounts of the same handful of stories each day, reads the Project for Excellence in Journalism 2006 report. Such concentration of personnel around a few stories, in turn, has aided the efforts of newsmakers to control what the public knows.
Ill miss my yall, my readers. To know that someone was cheering and/or screaming and tearing the paper to shreds was part of the fuel that Peterbilt ran on. I knew I had succeeded one night at the late, great Kings when some guy came up and socked me in the face. Ill miss Richard Hart. He was just the sort of editor an all-over-the-map type that I admittedly am.
I dont like long goodbyes so goodbye. I will retain my email as it was,
Later days, yall.
Peter Eichenberger Petrblt@hotmail.
From the Indiana Star
9 hurt in New Castle prison riot
DOC leader: "Cultural differences" caused discomfort for Arizona prisoners in Indiana
New Castle Correctional Facility
By Tim Evans, Karen Eschbacher and Vic Ryckaert
NEW CASTLE, Ind. -- State officials will temporarily halt the transfer of Arizona prisoners to the New Castle Correctional Facility after a riot Tuesday that prompted calls for an end to housing another state's inmates in Indiana.
Fires burn in the courtyard of the New Castle Correctional Facility during a full scale riot earlier today. - WISH-TV via AP
New Castle Correctional Facility
More than 100 convicts from Arizona arrived in March 2007, the first wave of 1,200 inmates to be brought in from that state.
Indiana's only privately managed prison is operated by the GEO Group.
Department of Correction officials said nine people -- two prison employees and seven inmates -- suffered minor injuries in separate disturbances involving Arizona and Indiana prisoners during a two-hour period Tuesday afternoon at the facility 50 miles east of Indianapolis.
Commissioner J. David Donahue said the Arizona prisoners may have been upset because Indiana prisons have different rules, including a ban on smoking and limits on personal items inmates can have in their cells. The Arizona prisoners are kept separate from Indiana inmates.
Tuesday's disturbance is the latest example of riots led by prisoners shipped to other states for incarceration. At least two other uprisings since 2003 involved Arizona inmates held in out-of-state prisons.
The riot also prompted a key legislative leader to call for the state to cancel the Arizona deal.
"The idea of bringing in people from another state who bring along their gangs, allegiances and different alliances immediately was a mixture that was bound to bring trouble," said House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend.
Gov. Mitch Daniels said Tuesday night the inmates specifically involved in the incident "need to go home" and that he will review the entire out-of-state arrangement today with Donahue.
But even before Tuesday's riot, Arizona officials had decided to stop sending inmates to the New Castle prison because a recent visit raised "serious security concerns."
Dora Schriro, director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, visited the New Castle Correctional Facility on Thursday and found insufficient staffing for her state's 630 inmates, said Katie Decker, a spokeswoman with the department. Schriro also was concerned about where officers were stationed.
"She advised the operators of that prison that she was going to halt the transfer of inmates until these issues were resolved," Decker said. "There were serious security concerns."
Decker said only 37 correctional officers were assigned to the Arizona inmates Thursday. She could not say what that number should have been but said 131 officers would have been required if all 1,260 Arizona inmates had already been transferred.
She declined to comment on whether those staffing levels could have contributed to the riot.
Arizona is paying Indiana $6.1 million to house its inmates. Daniels and others supported the deal in part because the prison was only about half full.
The New Castle prison is state-owned, but Indiana contracts with GEO Group of Florida to operate it. The first 104 prisoners arrived March 12.
Decker, the Arizona corrections spokeswoman, said Arizona would prefer to keep its prisoners in-state but can't accommodate the growing inmate population. Arizona also sends some inmates to a prison in Oklahoma. It had sent about 1,500 to private prisons in Texas, but those contracts were canceled late last year.
Decker said the future of the contract with Indiana is in question.
"Is the facility going to be capable of housing the inmates we have there? Are the things that caused this going to be addressed? "
While the riot raised concerns about the deal with Arizona, it also prompted questions about the state's contract with a private firm to manage the facility.
The state signed a contract with GEO Group in September 2005 to run the prison for four years with an option for three two-year extensions. Officials with the company declined comment Tuesday.
Daniels said the fact that the prison is privately managed did not have anything to do with the riot, and his office released a history of disturbances at Indiana correctional facilities to help support his point.
"In fact, the management there responded beautifully, as did the public authorities," said Daniels, who has sought to privatize parts of state government.
But Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker disagreed and said privatization of the prison likely contributed.
"What happened today is a tragedy. I think it all ties back to the fact that (the governor) has privatized essential government services," Parker said.
House Minority Leader Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, cautioned people not to rush to judgment.
"It's too early to make any rash judgments about what happened in New Castle," he said. "I think we need to find out exactly what happened, who is responsible and how prison officials reacted. This is not the first prison riot in national history, nor is it the last."
Tuesday's trouble began about 2 p.m. as a group of Arizona inmates became defiant as they were being moved from a dining hall to their cellblocks, said Donahue, the DOC commissioner.
Donahue said many of the inmates began removing their shirts, apparently in a show of solidarity for the "noncompliance," and one guard was either knocked or pushed to the ground.
A group of Indiana inmates -- who do not mingle with the Arizona prisoners and are kept separate by fences -- became aware of the disturbance, and about 500 of the prison's 1,668 inmates became involved, he said.
Rioters broke scores of windows and set several fires in outdoor recreation areas before guards used a chemical agent to quell the disturbance after about two hours.
Guards first isolated the areas of disruption, giving inmates time to decide who was going to participate and who was going to be bystanders rather than rushing in, Donahue said.
"We don't rush to judgment," he said. "We don't want to put additional folks at risk. We didn't have anyone in harm's way."
It's not unusual for tensions to flare up at a prison that's privately run and has prisoners from different states, said Ken Kopczynski, executive director of the watchdog Private Corrections Institute.
For one, prisoners often end up far away from their relatives and friends, making visits difficult.
"How do you expect the family to stay in touch," he said, "when they're in Arizona and they have to fly all the way to Indiana?"
In addition, companies such as GEO Group subject prisoners to different rules, based on the contracts they have with different states. For example, prisoners from one state can have food more times per day or access to reading materials or better medical care than prisoners from another state.
Guards did keep the prison populations apart, as all management companies are required to do, but that rarely stops the flow of information, Kopczynski said.
Once one group finds out the guards are treating another group better, prisoners can become resentful, angry and violent. That kind of unequal treatment doesn't usually happen in public prisons, because the prisoners are from the same state.
But transferring prisoners from state to state is becoming more and more common as states run out of beds and decide it's cheaper to ship prisoners to other states, rather than build a prison of their own.
Prisoners' rights' advocates said that the arrangement is a recipe for disaster from the start.
Donna Leone Hamm, director of Middle Ground Prison Reform, an Arizona-based nonprofit inmate advocacy group, said she is not surprised that violence broke out at the prison.
She said her organization has been contacted by inmates and their family members who said prisoners were shipped off to Indiana against their will and with little notice, including some who said they were roused from their beds in the middle of the night and told to pack.
Because Arizona transports prisoners deemed least likely to cause trouble, well-behaved inmates felt they were being punished for playing by the rules, Hamm said. In addition, some couldn't bring along personal property, including televisions, she said.
Star reporters Erika Smith, Kevin O'Neal, Mary Beth Schneider, Theodore Kim and Bill Ruthhart contributed to this story.
Oh, on this "intelligent design" business. The human body, what with those fragile knees so prone to torsional failure and that back with the counter-intuitive double, reverse curve that is alway screwing up, I'm afraid were I on the Human design commitee I'd recommend firing the guy. I mean, if God can do anything, why not wheels?
Ham, On your list of miracle that this God guy has performed, I dunno, I am sceptical. What's your proof? Sounds sort of far fetched to me. Any evidence to support this wacky idea?
That is not possible for me. Race is a myth, a social construct that I do not engage in. Why do you ask?
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