Dear Mama McGraw-Hill Construction:

Thanks again for allowing me to take a week off from work to go visit my dad in Los Angeles.

Two days in, I thought I’d let you know how I’m doing. After all, some say that corporations are “people,” so I figure you would be personally interested in my well-being. Also, based on the consistent correspondence of my colleagues during my “week off,” I know I must be terribly missed. Surely it must be my lovable personality.

I flew out of JFK, where Delta is underway with a $1-billion terminal expansion. Upon arriving at LAX, I felt an urge to say hi to old acquaintances there, who are well underway with their own new terminal. I took a tour with LAX officials last year, and I was so tempted to see the project again. But I’m on vacation, right?

Yesterday I visited the Port of Long Beach, where a 10-year, $4.5-billion capital plan has commenced. They are completely altering the layout of the port, filling in slips of water with material dredged from other parts, rather like filling in the gaps between fingers on a hand with flesh from other parts of the body.

I checked out the old Desmond Bridge, which will be replaced soon by a cable-stayed bridge—the first vehicular cable-stayed bridge in California—under a $650-million design-build contract recently won by a joint venture team of Shimmick Construction Co. Inc., FCC Construction S.A. and Impregilo S.p.A..

The old bridge is not doing well. Its underbelly is completely covered in netting, or “diapers,” as the engineers call it. In other words, this old bridge is incontinent. Seriously, I am not “spalling” you.

The new one will not only have shoulders, but will rise 200 ft above water, so that those massive big ships carrying more than 10,000 containers each can pass underneath.

It was a great tour of a massive port capital program. Afterwards, I drove back to my dad’s house, mostly via the 710 Freeway north. Here is one of Los Angeles’ most enduring lies: the signs keep telling you that you are heading to Pasadena. Actually, the 710 abruptly ends in Alhambra. LA transportation officials are shortlisting alternatives to finally finish the 710 – a tunnel, or a couple of alignments involving a highway extension into Pasadena and South Pasadena.

Locals want none of it. This is one of those truly tough decisions. NIMBY-ism is understandable here. These communities don’t want a highway smack dab in the middle of them. Yet, for overall regional mobility (and Alhambra), it makes sense to provide this missing link.

It’s a great start to my week off. That’s all for now. I’ll write you one more time before the trip ends. I know you will be eager to hear about my date with LA Metro and its America Fast Forward Program, where they are trying to build 30 years’ worth of transit and highway programs in 10.


the transportation editor