Don’t get me wrong, from an intellectual perspective I understand that these issues are important, urgently so, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Furthermore, cement is responsible for around 5% of global CO2 emissions (that’s crazy!), which is reason enough for everyone to care about pavement. But as compelling as the arguments are, fly ash content and tensile strength just doesn’t ignite my passions.
So when I stopped by the Pavement Preservation Journal stall at the TRB Annual Meeting, I thought to myself, “Now here’s something I don’t think about hardly at all,” and started chatting with the booth staffers. I mentioned that as a bicyclist, I really do appreciate high-quality pavement (though didn’t mention that’s generally as far as my thoughts on pavement go). After saying this, I was invited to submit an article explaining why bicyclists – not just car commuters and truck drivers – care about pavement preservation.
We’ve all put on our green shirt and socks, clasped the shamrock pin to our lapels, and downed our green beer. Today is the day that, as the saying goes, “We’re all Irish.” Now that I’m in the Pioneer Valley, and Holyoke specifically, St. Patrick’s Day holds special significance. Holyoke has one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in New England, inflating the population ten-fold this coming Saturday. But even without the parade, St. Patrick’s Day should hold special meaning in the Paper City.
The Great Hunger
To be Irish must include understanding the potato famine of 1845-49. We all know about the blight that destroyed the potato crops on which the Irish depended, but what may be more surprising is the magnitude of death and suffering the Irish endured. Out of a population of around 8.5 million, 1 million people starved to death and another 2 million immigrated. Birth rates plummeted. By Irish independence 70 years later, the population of Ireland was only half of what it was in the 1840s.
I was chatting with a coworker who grew up in Northampton about how the city has changed over the years. He was sort of shaking his head in shock and disappointment, saying, “It’s just gotten so expensive. I don’t even know who can afford to live here anymore.”
It’s true. My wife and I have been looking at buying a home in the Pioneer Valley, focusing on Northampton, Easthampton, and Holyoke. We found that for $300,000, you can get a mansion in Holyoke, a nice-ish 3 or 4 bedroom in Easthampton, and a 2-bedroom that needs updating in Northampton – if you’re lucky.
Tomorrow, Thursday 3/10 at 1 PM, I am going to be presenting at UMass-Amherst Transportation Center for their weekly Transportation Seminar. I will be leading a discussion about some differences between urban planners and civil engineers, and how that can sometimes lead to strained relationships between the two fields.
This talk is inspired by a presentation I went to some years ago given by Dr. Kelly Clifton, a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Portland State University. While I have observed the gap between the two disciplines narrow, I still think it bears running through ways in which practitioners in the two fields could work together better, particularly on challenging projects.
Swing by if you can! If not, I will probably give a synopsis in a later blog post.
There are only nine cities in the Pioneer Valley: Westfield, West Springfield, Agawam, Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee, Easthampton, Greenfield, and Northampton. But there are a bunch of towns, like Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Granby, and on and on. And this distinction isn’t me being some sort of weird pedant; Massachusetts actually distinguishes between city and town forms of government. But more on that in a future blog post, maybe.