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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 14, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Bumpy roads: Street repair woes are real and lasting

Public officials must be kept on their toes

Editor, The Times:

After reading your story “Curb crew blunders mean heat for Nickels” [page one, July 14], I feel moved once again to thank you for the countless times when public awareness has been raised by your newspaper in areas that key people would prefer to keep hidden. For an elected or appointed official, there is nothing like uncomfortable scrutiny to ruin a day.

One comment in particular from Mayor Greg Nickels caught my attention. As he attempts to defend the performance of the Seattle Department of Transportation, he coolly observes, “If you … look at any transportation organization in the U.S. and in the world, they stack up pretty well.”

This grandiose statement, meant to prop up his beleaguered agency, causes one to wonder what basis for it there could be in real terms. Is he referring to studies that have been done previously? Why do they stack up well? I think it is more probable that his one and only desire here is to deflect unwanted attention on something that has become embarrassing and sensitive.

How easy it is to conveniently throw out disinformation that has no basis in fact in order to calm the storm.

— Tom Likai, Shoreline

Cement mason: That really is shoddy work

This kind of story [“The street crews that couldn’t pour straight,” page one, July 12] makes all cement masons look like they’re unskilled laborers. It is upsetting to me as the business manager of union cement masons that individuals might look upon my members and judge their work by the work that was displayed on the front page of The Times.

I have been a union cement mason for more than 30 years and know what good concrete looks like. The picture on the front page of The Times was not pretty. It is a wonder these masons still have a job.

Some questions that come to my mind are: What kind of training do city employees receive? Have they been through an approved apprenticeship program?

We would hope in the future that on projects of this size, the city would use a subcontractor with employees trained to perform the exact task so poorly performed by its employees. These contractors all employ quality journey-level cement masons and state-registered apprentices.

— John Kearns, Tukwila

Poor street work not just a recent problem

The story in The Times about street crews should come as no surprise to Seattle natives. Nor is the problem of recent vintage.

You can go just about anywhere in the city and routinely find wheelchair ramps that angle directly into the middle of intersections, rather than to the opposite curb and aligned with crosswalks, where marked.

I’ve always thought one of the more absurd street crossings I’ve ever seen is the overhead pedestrian crossing near the Oak Tree Shopping Center on North Aurora Avenue. What starts out as a nice, spiraling, wheelchair-accessible ramp on the shopping-center side comes to an abrupt set of stairs as one reaches the opposite side of the street.

Clearly, we have suffered through generations of this type of buffoonery.

— Jeff Woodhouse, Seattle

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