What? A traffic jam here?

It was stop and go on the way into town.

It was stop and go on the way into town.

One of the many reasons many of us live in the mid-Willamette Valley and stay here is that we seldom get stuck in traffic. So it was with some surprise that driving into Albany on Friday night, it was stop-and-go on Highway 20 headed for the Ellsworth Street Bridge.

Now I know that if congestion is going to happen, this is one likely place when lots of drivers return from Corvallis in the late afternoon. The problem, I think, is with the traffic signals on First, Second and Third Avenues downtown. They are the old-fashioned kind, set for certain intervals, and the timing doesn't vary regardless of whether traffic is heavy or light.

This is aggravated by the fact that the right-hand lane coming off the bridge into town sometimes has to stop even when it has the green light. That's because a pedestrian or two has chosen to cross the street at the light, keeping any drivers from turning right, as a good many of them hope to do. So they have to wait, and all the vehicles behind them wait as well.

Now normally, pedestrians are a rare sight in downtown Albany, the efforts of urban renewal and the downtown association to the contrary notwithstanding. But on this Friday, a "wine walk" downtown attracted a crowd, and many of them insisted on blocking right-turning traffic by crossing First Avenue at the light at Ellsworth and First. If large numbers of people on foot ever become the rule downtown, something will have to be done about those lights. (hh)

James Carrick responded on May 4:  I can remember when there was a short (2-3 cars long) right turn lane at the foot of the Ellsworth bridge, but it was removed some years back. Perhaps restoration of that lane would help the problem.

Jodie Bowens Shilling responded May 4, via Facebook: A little off topic, but just as important is that I think people are forgetting that the speed limit coming into town from North Albany there, is 25 mph, not 45 mph. There seems to be some road rage if the leader of the pack isn't going at least 35 - 40. It's very frustrating. Just my .02.

It’s legal, but is it smart?

sheriffNow and then the activity log of the Benton County Sheriff's Office contains an item that makes you wonder what your fellow citizens are thinking. I ran across an item like that when I reviewed the log for the last week or two.

The incident happened on April 27, a Saturday, just before 3 in the afternoon. "Shots fired." That's how the log described the call. Deputies went to an address on Marlon Street in Philomath, where a woman told them she could hear automatic gunfire somewhere north of her home.

The deputies must have heard it too and followed the sound, though the log doesn't say so. In any case, they went to an address in the 2300 block of West Hills Road, about a mile or more away from the caller's house. There they spoke with a man who was shooting a fully automatic submachine gun on his property.

The man had a federal license for the gun, and the deputies noted that what he was doing was legal. But they suggested that the next time he planned to shoot on his property he should call the sheriff's office first. "So when people call, we would know what was going on," the log explained their reasoning.

That would be one way to handle it. Another would be to think not just of the neighbors but of all the people living within about a mile of his place and then take his submachine gun to the nearest range. (hh)

Keeping us going: Highway work

Ever notice our Oregon state highways? No, of course you don't, because you and all of the rest of us take them for granted. We take them for granted because they cause us no trouble. And the reason they work as well as they do most of the time is that the highway division of ODOT, the Oregon Department of Transportation, stays on top of maintenance and keeps them in good shape.

The Alsea Bay Bridge is getting a paint job and other work done.

The Alsea Bay Bridge is getting a paint job and other work done. The job is to be finished in November.

The pavement on I-5 is the best example. But secondary highways too are easy to navigate because they are resurfaced when they need it, and sometimes even straightened out as on Highway 20 at Eddyville. Bridges get the same attention. On the coast, for instance, the Alsea Bay Bridge is getting a $2.5 million paint job this year to preserve it. The bridge itself was completed in 1991 at a cost of $42.4 million after just three years of construction. With prudent foresight, it was built well before the picturesque and well-loved 1936 crossing would have become unusable because of damage from the elements.

On the coast, bridges require maintenance more often than inland because of the corrosive effects of sea air. At Alsea Bay now, in addition to painting the arches and other parts of the bridge, the contractor is building a new walkway under the deck to make routine inspections easier. We're paying for this and many other current highway projects with our fuel taxes and motor vehicle fees. As the customary signs remind us, this is one part of life where it's easy to see our taxes at work -- and doing a good job. (hh)

Albany’s next police chief will be…

From left: City Manager Wes Hare and police chief finalists Mario Lattanzio, Dan Hendrickson and Jim Peterson.

From left: City Manager Wes Hare and police chief finalists Mario Lattanzio, Dan Hendrickson and Jim Peterson.

Not the guy I thought it would be. When I first wrote about the May 1 appearance at a public forum of the three finalists -- Corvallis Police Capt. Dan Hendrickson of Albany, Assistant Chief Mario Lattanzio of Mesa, Ariz., and Deputy Chief Jim Peterson of Pocatello, Idaho --  I thought that Hendrickson was clearly the top choice. But on Friday City Manager Wes Hare announced he had offered the job to Lattanzio.

The city manager was quoted in the local paper that the man from Mesa finished ahead of the others by a large margin, in his view. The Mesa department is huge, as you would expect from a metropolitan department, more than 10 times the size of Albany's. I would have thought that metropolitan policing differed substantially from the way the job ought to be approached in a small town where major crimes are rare. But maybe not. And even if it is different, maybe Albany's new police chief can adjust.

In this selection, it was impossible for the city manager to make a mistake. All three finalists have an exemplary background in police work, and all came across as good men whom the public can trust. Based on what they said in the public forum Wednesday and how they said it, I thought Hendrickson made the best impression. Impressions don't necessarily count, and mine certainly did not in this case. (hh)

This is a rewrite of a piece posted on this site on May 2.

All about side effects

No hyperactivity here ...

No hyperactivity here ...

If you read the fine print, it seems surprising that the makers of prescription drugs ever sell some of their products. After all, who wants to get sicker or even risk death?

In television ads and in print, the drug makers evidently are required -- to limit liability if nothing else -- to spell out all kinds of reservations about what they are promoting. But on TV, the voice-over warnings and cautions are accompanied by images of people getting well, and sometimes beautiful scenery, so who pays attention to the fast-paced recitation of side effects?

In magazines, though, the cautions often take up a whole page or two, and you can take your time reading through them if you're so inclined. Here's an example from an ad for a drug intended for children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.

What could go wrong if you take this medicine? Well, sudden death, for one, in patients who have heart problems. Or strokes and heart attacks in adults. Or increases in blood pressure and heart rate. Mental problems could get worse. Or people might develop new or worse bipolar illness. Drugs like this could cause children and teenagers to hear voices. They could also cause a slowdown in growth, vomiting, trouble sleeping, dizziness and fever, among many other troubles.

Compared to all that, a little attention deficit or hyperactivity may not seem all that bad. (hh)

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