Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Transportation Case Study Part 1

The following set of posts relates to a class project for Public Policy 715.

The Minnesota bridge collapse that is the topic of this case study occurred on August 1st, 2007, and the first thing to do is acquaint ourselves with the details of the incident as if it just happened. The story of the bridge collapse made the front page of every newspaper in America but it’s best to go to the local newspaper to see the magnitude and gravity of the event for a local.

Four of the twenty-one articles published in the August 2nd issue of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the most widely circulated paper in the Twin Cities area are reprinted here. The first is a nuts-and-bolts report with facts highlighted. The second is one that shows the true emotional magnitude of the event to the local Minneapolis community, even going so far as to compare the event to New York’s 9/11. Perhaps another way to put the comparison in context is that as unfair as it is, a disaster that takes place in New York like 9/11 has a far better chance of reaching out to the public because it takes place in the nation’s media capital. The third is a short chronology to help give a better picture. The fourth is an alternate route guide in which we can note how well the city prepared alternate transportation routes and we can look at the system from that perspective.

Paper: Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Date: 7/2/2007

Writer: Paul Levy

Page: 1A


Crowded with bumper-to-bumper traffic, I-35W bridge plunged into the Mississippi River during rush hour.; At least nine people died and 20 were missing, with countless hurt. Dozens of vehicles dropped into the water.; A 2005 assessment called the 40-year-old span `structurally deficient,' and it was a candidate for replacement.; To the ballgame, on the bus, drivers plunged into terror.

An ordinary evening rush hour turned horrific Wednesday when the Interstate 35W bridge that spans the Mississippi River in Minneapolis suddenly collapsed. Dozens of vehicles plunged to the water and roadways below, leaving scores of dazed commuters scrambling for their lives.

Nine people were confirmed dead, 60 were taken to hospitals and 20 people were still missing late Wednesday night. Authorities said they expected the death toll to rise.

Between 50 and 60 vehicles were on the bridge when it went down shortly after 6 p.m., authorities said. Legions of rescue workers and volunteers swarmed to the scene and spent hours sifting through the wreckage in a frantic search for survivors.

"This is a catastrophe of historic proportions for Minnesota," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said.

By late in the evening, officials said efforts at the Mississippi had switched from rescue to recovery.

Jay Danz, 45, of St. Paul, was on his way to the Metrodome to watch the Twins play Kansas City and had driven under W. River Parkway, beneath the interstate bridge, seconds before it fell.

"I heard it creaking and making all sorts of noises it shouldn't make," Danz said. "And then the bridge just started to fall apart."

In addition to the cars that went into the water, a school bus carrying about 60 Minneapolis children fell from the bridge, landing on all four of its tires and missing the water as it came to rest near the parkway.

Several of the children and at least two adults were treated for injuries after the group escaped through the back door of the bus.

"Some kids had blood on their faces, but thank God everybody could move," Danz said.

The cause of the collapse wasn't known in the hours afterward. It's too soon to know what happened, said Catherine E. Wolfgram French, a civil engineering professor at the University of Minnesota.

"Things can happen with temperature, and with construction, or a lot of other confounding factors," French said.

This was a 40-year-old truss bridge, and French did say that some early truss bridges don't have as many structural redundancies - backups to carry the loads - as is now considered desirable.

Another engineer, Michael Ramerth, a principal at MBJ Consulting Structural Engineers in Minneapolis, said in the search for answers "I would start at the foundations."

On a typical weekday, more than 100,000 cars use the bridge.

Berndt Toivonen, 51, of Minneapolis, was on his way home from a painting job when the bridge collapsed beneath his car.

"The bridge started to buckle," Toivonen said. "It went up and came down. I thought I was going to die."

Bumper-to-bumper traffic

What people in the area of the collapse experienced or saw at about 6:05 p.m. unfolded as motorists crawled bumper to bumper across I-35W toward the end of rush hour.

Those on the bridge felt buckling and swaying and heard a crunching.

Then came the unthinkable: The 40-year-old bridge collapsed, dumping vehicles into the water and onto land below. That was followed by scenes of frantic, bloodied motorists and rescuers who converged on the scene.

Many vehicles, including at least one semitrailer, were on fire. People were reported to be floundering in the river. Rescuers rushed to help people escape cars trapped in the V-shaped hollow where the bridge had caved in.

The school bus that fell was, returning from a day-camp swimming trip sponsored by a Waite House summer program.

"We collapsed," said Ryan Watkins, one of the children.

Crumpled wreckage lay on the east bank of the river, and a huge section of concrete roadway lay on the west bank. Down below in the river gorge, rescue workers scrambled to help people get out of the water.

Fire and black smoke rose from the wreckage.

Memorial Blood Centers and the American Red Cross put out immediate calls for blood donors. A center for families of those who are missing was set up at the Holiday Inn Metrodome.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff issued a statement Wednesday night saying there was no indication of terrorism.

Transportation Secretary Mary Peters was scheduled to fly to the Twin Cities early this morning, along with Sens. Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar.

Workers on the bridge

About 20 construction workers employed by Progressive Contractors Inc. were about to begin night shift work on the bridge when it collapsed, company officials said.

The company has been working on a repair project for about six weeks, said Mike McGray, president of the company. Progressive is based in St. Michael, Minn., and is one of the state's major road and bridge repair contractors.

In 1990 a construction worker fell 90 feet to his death when a concrete arch span on the Lake Street-Marshall Avenue Bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River. In 1960 a bridge over the Minnesota River at Hwy. 41 in Chaska collapsed during construction. No one was killed in that incident.

Construction workers had been repairing the bridge's surface as part of improvements along that stretch of the interstate. There were a large number of construction workers who went into the water, said Maj. Michael Asleson of the Minnesota State Patrol.

Most of the injured were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center.

Nine people were taken to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale and five others arrived by ambulance at the University of Minnesota Medical Center.

A staging area for the injured was set up near the Stone Arch Bridge.

Marcelo Cruz, 26, of Crystal, who has used a wheelchair since being paralyzed in a shooting in South Carolina several years ago, was driving his van across the bridge toward downtown when he felt it began to wave up and down.

He steered into the concrete railing to stop himself from driving into the river, and saw many cars on the bridge fall into the water.

His van came to rest steeply inclined toward the river and several onlookers ran and told him to get out. He said he needed help and the onlookers carried him out of his van in his wheelchair to safety on the riverbank.

"I'm lucky to be alive," he said over and over again.

Peter Siddons, a senior vice president at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, was heading north over the bridge toward his home to White Bear Lake when he heard "crunching."

"I saw this rolling of the bridge," he said. "It kept collapsing, down, down, down until it got to me."

Siddons' car dropped with the bridge, and its nose rolled into the car in front of him and stopped.

He got out of his car, jumped over the crevice between the highway lanes and crawled up the steeply tilted section of bridge to land, where he jumped to the ground.

"I thought I was dead," he said. "Honestly, I honestly did. I thought it was over."

Ramon Houge of St. Paul was on his way home from work and was on the bridge when he heard a rumbling noise and cars in front of him began to go down.

He said cars that could backed up, turned around and drove toward safety.

Baseball game added to congestion

Danz said there were cars behind him on W. River Parkway, but he didn't think any of them were under the bridge when it fell.

John Joachim of Taylors Falls, Minn., took I-35W to the Twins game and said traffic suddenly "slammed to a stop" as he neared University Avenue.

"I didn't know what was going on but a huge cloud of dust rose in front of us," he said.

After the game, traffic were being rerouted away from the collapse, routes that also were being used by theater patrons leaving the Guthrie.

This afternoon's Twins game has been postponed, along with scheduled groundbreaking ceremonies for the new baseball park that had been scheduled for this evening.

`Five feet from the edge'

Louis Rogers, 28, of Roseville was driving home from work listening to music in his Chevy Blazer when the bridge gave way just feet in front of him.

"It just disappeared; it made no sound whatsoever," he said. "It was pretty much like a thud, not too loud of a thud. The next thing I know, cars were dropping and there was smoke. My car was no more than five feet from the edge."

Rogers tried to help some of the people in cars that had fallen into the river and stopped on the bridge.

"I saw a lady in a car and I screamed, but I got no response," he said. "I grabbed my bag and started signaling cars to get out of there."

Ryan Murphey, 30, of Minneapolis, went to the scene to see if he could help out.

"It looked like a terrorist attack, a complete catastrophe," Murphey said. "But everyone there was very calm and organized."

He helped remove two victims from the east side of the bridge on stretchers, including a woman in her late 50s with a "bloody face."

The Twins decided to play Wednesday night's game, but only after the public address announcer alerted the crowd at 7:08 p.m. of the bridge's collapse. A moment of prayer followed. It was then announced that the game would go on so emergency crews could perform their duties without the added pressure of having 20,000 to 25,000 people scrambling in swarms from the Dome area.

Area law enforcement, including the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, had launched at least three boats to help with the rescues.

"Unbelievable," said Audrey Glassman of Minneapolis, who left her work shift at nearby Spoonriver restaurant to survey the scene. "You'll never cross a bridge again without thinking about this."

Staff writers Curt Brown, Tim Campbell, Joe Christensen, Terry Collins, H.J. Cummins, Kevin Duchschere, Tom Ford, Kevin Giles, Pat Lopez, Maura Lerner, Bill McAuliffe, Pamela Miller, Claude Peck, Joy Powell, James Shiffer, Jim Foti and Doug Tice contributed to this story, which was written by Paul Levy.

Memorial Blood Centers and the American Red Cross put out immediate calls for blood donors on Wednesday night. Within an hour of the bridge collapse, blood banks had shipped extra blood supplies to Hennepin County Medical Center and North Memorial Medical Center to help care for the injured. To donate blood, call the Red Cross at 1-800-GIVE-LIFE or Memorial Blood Centers at 1-888-GIVE-BLD.

Paper: Minneapolis Star Tribune

Date: August 2, 2007 Thursday
Page: 16A

Byline: Unnamed

Headline: A `castrophe of historic proportions'; A bridge collapses;
a community responds.

Text: It will be some time before the losses from Wednesday's disaster are counted. What we can see now is a moment of crisis in the life of our city and state. It is a cliche because it is true: This moment we will remember for the rest of our lives. As Gov. Tim Pawlenty described it, it was "a catastrophe of historic proportions for Minnesota."

Television anchors and radio reporters tried to avoid comparisons to 9/11, but there was no use. The collapse of the Interstate Hwy. 35W bridge over the Mississippi - as rush-hour took traffic out of downtown and the Twins game brought traffic in - inspired the same kind of open-mouthed horror that showed on the faces of New Yorkers that day. And though authorities were quick to discount any suggestion of terrorist involvement, the imagination was not so quick. As with the loss of the space shuttle Columbia, a catastrophe is first assumed to be malevolent. Our world is no longer allowed to view disasters as simple accidents, at least at first.

But then a community in shock came together. The call went out for blood donations, and the response is sure to be strong. Authorities asked area residents to avoid travel and cell-phone use. As TV screens showed video of rescue efforts in progress, rescuers showed a heroism that may be a day's work for them, but is amazing to us. Medical teams responded expertly. Members of Congress issued statements. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Police Chief Tim Dolan and Pawlenty spoke with authority on television. Text on the screen labeled Pawlenty as "R-Minnesota." On this night, both identifiers were unnecessary.

There will be more for everyone to do. For now, none of us can know with certainty that we did not lose friends yesterday. To those who are mourning a loss, the community will show support and solidarity.

Some in the news business had been complaining lately about the lack of news. They spoke of the dog days. Yesterday we learned once more that everything can change in an instant, and that to lament a slow news day is a sin.

Paper: Minneapolis Star Tribune

Date: 7/2/2007

Section: 15A

Text: 35W Bridge Collapse; Snapshot of a disaster

Shortly after 6 p.m. Wednesday, the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed. The steel-arched bridge was built in 1967. It was known for its 458-foot central span. Here is a look at the disaster and the rescue efforts.

1. Bridge work, part of a summer-long Stinson Blvd. to downtown Minneapolis resurfacing project, is underway. Construction vehicles line the bridge.

2. Lane closures in each direction force bumper-to-bumper traffic to about 10 miles per hour.

3. About 6:05 p.m., the bridge's center span directly over the river collapses.

4. Both ends, no longer connected to the center span, tip away from the river, causing secondary sections to collapse in sequence.

5. Dozens of vehicles fall into the river or are crushed between bridge sections. About 50 children are evacuated from a stranded school bus. At about 6:20 p.m., a semitrailer truck and later a pickup truck ignite.

6. Triage staging areas are set up at both ends of the bridge. Blood banks call for donations. Regional hospitals go on orange alert. The nearby Stone Arch pedestrian bridge is used by emergency vehicles. Water rescue boats, hundreds of paramedics and 25 emergency doctors arrive on the scene.

Source: Star Tribune reporting; news reports; photo by Pictometry International

Paper: Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Date: 7/2/2007

Byline: Laurie Blake, Staff Writer

Page: 13A

Headline: I-35W Bridge Collapse; A TRAFFIC NIGHTMARE; Solutions to help your commute
The missing piece of Interstate Hwy. 35W will force southbound commuters and bus riders from the northeast suburbs to take alternate routes into Minneapolis indefinitely. More than 100,000 vehicles a day typically used the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River.

Suggested routes:

The Minnesota Department of Transportation announced early Thursday that Hwy. 280 will be the primary route to replace the closed section of 35W. Hwy. 280 will be converted to a temporary freeway with no stoplights, meaning access to and from Broadway Av. and County Road B will be closed.

Traffic heading toward downtown Minneapolis on I-35W from the north will be required to exit at Stinson Boulevard. I-35W traffic heading toward downtown from the south, meanwhile, will be required to exit at the ramp to I-94 eastbound.

Another option: AAA Minneapolis suggests that drivers coming from the north and northeast suburbs take Interstate 694 to eastbound I-94 into Minneapolis.

Expanded bus service:

Metro Transit announced that it would add 25 extra buses from 6 to 9 a.m. from north metro park-and-ride locations to downtown Minneapolis starting today.

Commuters can catch these buses at the park-and-ride lots at:

- Foley Boulevard in Coon Rapids (between Coon Rapids Boulevard and East River Road near Hwy. 610), served by Routes 850 and 852.

- Maplewood Mall, near Beam and Southlawn Avenues, served by Route 270.

- Northtown Shopping Center in Blaine, served by Routes 824, 852, 854.

- 63rd Avenue at County Road 81 (Bottineau Boulevard) in Brooklyn Center, served by Routes 758 and 767.

- Rosedale Shopping Center in Roseville, served by Route 260.

- Roseville City Hall at County Road C and Civic Center Drive.

- Grace Lutheran Church at Hamline Avenue at County Road B2, served by Route 261.

At these locations, Metro Transit staff will be available to assist new riders. Additional service will also be added in the afternoon.

For more information:

- Check the agency's website at metrotransit.org or call 612-373-3333 from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.

- The city of Minneapolis will also offer route information on the city's website at ci.Minneapolis.mn.us.

Transportation Case Study 2: Government's Response

This is the Congressional Testimony from US Dept. of Transportaiton Seceretary Peters. :

Highlights have also been provided:

“Something went terribly wrong. Bridges should not fail, and no one who is using them responsibly should be hurt because of an infrastructure failure.”
“In the aftermath of this tragedy, a necessary national conversation has begun concerning the state of the Nation’s bridges and highways and the financial model used to build, maintain and operate them.
“Federal, State, and local transportation agencies consider the inspection of our nearly 600,000 bridges to be of vital importance and invest significant funds in bridge inspection activities each year”
“In the interim, we are taking every step to ensure that America’s infrastructure is safe.”
“It is important to understand that, while we must do a better job of improving the Nation’s transportation systems, we do not have a broad transportation infrastructure “safety” crisis. We agree that the condition of our infrastructure requires on-going attention, but I want to emphasize that we will not allow the public safety to be put at risk. We would limit the use of a bridge or close a bridge rather than let the public safety be put at risk.”
“These infrastructure quality numbers should and can be improved with more targeted investment strategies, but it is inaccurate to conclude that the Nation’s transportation infrastructure is unsafe. We have quality control systems that provide surveillance over the design and construction of bridges. We have quality control systems that oversee the operations and use of our bridges. And we have quality control over inspections of bridges to keep track of the attention that a bridge will require to stay in safe operation.”
“Many are calling for a renewed national focus on our Nation’s highway infrastructure. And while I agree that our infrastructure models need to be reexamined, it is imperative that we actually focus on the right problem. When faced with an underperforming division, the response of any credible business organization is to assess the cause of underperformance and to implement policies and practices intended to reverse performance declines. In my assessment, the underperformance in the highway sector is fundamental, not incremental. In other words, increases in Federal taxes and spending would likely do little, if anything, without a more basic change in how we analyze competing spending options and manage existing systems more efficiently.”

A summary of the Government's call to action:
-Our Department is working closely with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as it continues its investigation to determine the cause or causes of this failure.
-I have issued two advisories to States in response to what we have learned so far, asking that States re-inspect their steel deck truss bridges and that they be mindful of the added weight construction projects may bring to bear on bridges.
-A quick release of $5 million in Emergency Relief Federal-aid Highway funding to the State of Minnesota to initiate recovery operations. Those funds were made available the day after the disaster to help restore the traffic flow, to clear the debris, to set up detours, and to begin the repair work.
-President Bush signed legislation on August 6 authorizing $250 million for the replacement of the bridge.
-The legislation also made available $5 million to reimburse Minneapolis for increased transit operations to serve commuters until highway traffic service is restored on the bridge.
-Fifty million dollars in Emergency Relief funds were released on August 9 to ensure the State's recovery efforts can proceed without delay.
-As the State completes the assessment of the total damage and the ultimate cost to replace this bridge, we stand ready to ensure that appropriate funding is made available to replace it.
-While not part of the emergency response funding, we have also provided an additional $13.2 million in immediately available transit funds in connection with our announcement of Minneapolis as an “Urban Partner” under our Congestion Initiative, a broad initiative for managing surface transportation in the Minneapolis area.

Some stats mentioned:
-The I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis originally opened in November 1967 and became one of the critical facilities in a vital commercial and commuting corridor.
-The bridge was an 8-lane, steel deck truss structure that rose 64 feet above the river before its collapse.
-As of the 2004 count, an estimated 141,000 vehicles traveled per day on the bridge.
-Within days of the collapse, development of a computer model based upon the original design drawings for the bridge began at FHWA's Turner Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Virginia......This model can run simulations to determine the effect on the bridge of removing or weakening certain elements to recreate, virtually, the actual condition of the bridge just prior to and during its collapse….. While examination of the physical members of the bridge being recovered from the site provide the best evidence of why the bridge collapsed, the analytical model allows the evaluation of multiple scenarios which can then be validated against the physical evidence.….. This work is expected to take several months and my forensic experts have been on site continuously since the day after the collapse providing their expertise and assistance. We need to fully understand what happened so we can take every possible step to ensure that such a tragedy does not happen again. Data collected at the scene, with the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 3-D laser scanning device, are being used to assist in the investigation.

Stats on the infrastructure:
Since 1994, the percentage of the Nation’s bridges that are classified as “structurally deficient” has declined from 18.7% to 12.0%. The term "structurally deficient" is a technical engineering term used to classify bridges according to serviceability, safety, and essentiality for public use. The fact that a bridge is classified as "structurally deficient" does not mean that it is unsafe for use by the public. Since 1995 the percentage of travel taking place on roads that are considered “good” has increased from 39.8% to 44.2%.

A cost beneficial strategy:
-FHWA estimates that if we pursued a cost beneficial investment strategy, it would cost approximately $40 billion a year to maintain the physical condition of our Nation’s highways and bridges
-Approximately $60 billion a year to substantially improve the physical condition of current roads and bridges.
-In 2005, Federal, State, and local governments together made over $75 billion in capital investment to rehabilitate highways and bridges in the U.S. and improve their operational performance.
-If we include operational, administrative, and debt service costs in addition to capital investments, the U.S. spent nearly $153 billion on highways and bridges in 2005. ….
These infrastructure quality numbers should and can be improved with more targeted investment strategies, but it is inaccurate to conclude that the Nation’s transportation infrastructure is unsafe.
-A more accurate description of our current and broader problem is that we have an increasingly flawed investment model and a system performance crisis. -While many of these investments may have worthy purposes, virtually no comparative economic analysis is conducted to support these spending decisions. No business could survive for any meaningful period of time utilizing a similar investment strategy. Not surprisingly, new economic literature reveals that the returns on our highway investments have plummeted into the low single digits in recent years.
-The Department is working with States to encourage them to regularly use benefit cost analysis (BCA) when making project selection decisions. Currently, approximately 20 States make some use of BCA, while 6 States use the technique regularly.

Transportation Study 3A: Raising the Gas Tax

There are approximately 3 schools of thought as to how to improve the national infrastructure. The first is to increase the gas tax. The Governor of Minnesota is not vetoing the gas tax this time around, so that will likely increase funding. This article from The Washington Post deals with the issues related to the struggle over the gas tax in Virginia. It notes, among other things, how a gas tax is the most direct way to tax people who use the state's roads.

Newspaper: Washington Post
Date: 8/23/07
Byline: Tim Craig, Washingtono Post Staff Writer
Section: VA04
What Politicking Has to Do With the Price of Gas

RICHMOND-A lot has happened in the past month to change the price of gas.

In early August, as the summer travel season began to wane, gas prices dropped to $2.75 a gallon.

But last week prices briefly spiked to $2.90 a gallon because Hurricane Dean posed a threat to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. With Dean now headed to Mexico, gas has dropped to $2.65 a gallon.

Next month, however, the price of gas could be as low as $2.50 a gallon or as high as $3.50 a gallon, depending on any number of meteorological, political or economic conditions.

The fluctuations are so dizzying that most consumers might never have noticed if Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and the Republican-controlled General Assembly raised the gas tax to build more roads.

Oh, how some members of the General Assembly up for reelection Nov. 6 wish they had done just that.

Instead, they are left to defend the abusive-driver fees, while Virginia's 17.5-cents-a-gallon gas tax hasn't been raised since 1986.

Afraid of being labeled "tax-raisers" -- a potentially insurmountable obstacle in a GOP primary -- the Republican-controlled House of Delegates ruled out a statewide tax increase to pay for transportation.

In a 2005 Washington Post poll, the public backed the GOP's opposition to higher gas taxes by nearly 2 to 1.

Kaine, who was eager to put the transportation fight behind him, went along with the GOP. Kaine and the Republicans instead crafted a transportation funding plan that includes regional taxing districts in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. In Northern Virginia, taxes on the sale of a residence, auto repairs, rental cars, hotel rooms and commercial property might soon be increasing.

And bad drivers across the state could be hit with those controversial fees on felony and misdemeanor driving convictions, including driving more than 20 mph over the speed limit. Fees can run as high as $3,000 for certain offenses.

The abusive-driver fees were designed to raise $65 million annually for transportation. A 1-cent increase on the gas tax would have generated $50 million annually.

A gas tax also would apply to out-of-state motorists, including many of the trucks on interstates 95 and 81 that do the most damage to the roads. Kaine excluded out-of-state motorists from the abusive-driver fees, a decision that he and GOP legislators are vowing to reverse when the General Assembly convenes in January.

But the controversy and questions about the fees are enough to cause a growing number of legislators to second-guess the General Assembly's decision not to raise the gas tax.

"Most people would be very happy to add a penny to the gas tax rather than deal with these abuser fees," state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-Fairfax) said recently.

Devolites Davis, who voted for the transportation plan but has since come out against the abusive-driver fees, is probably speaking for anyone who has ever sped on I-95.

If the state raised the gas tax by a dime, people who use 20 gallons of gas a week would pay an additional $104 yearly.

They could drive for a decade and still pay less than they would if they -- or their children -- were convicted once for reckless driving, which carries a $1,150 abusive-driver fee on top of a fine and court costs.

As some lawmakers point out, a 10-cent increase in the gas tax would raise half as much as the recently approved $1 billion a year transportation plan. And a 10-cent increase would also have made Virginia's gas tax one of the highest in the nation.

But it still would have been comparable to neighboring North Carolina's 26.5-cent rate. Maryland's gas tax is 23.5 cents a gallon.

Several anti-tax activists hinted last week that they would have preferred a debate over the gas tax instead of the abusive-driver fees.

"Our leaders in the General Assembly have been playing games with voters," said Paul Jost, chairman of the Virginia Club for Growth, an anti-tax group. Jost and 17 other conservatives are challenging the constitutionality of the transportation plan in court, alleging that the state can make the courts collect what amounts to a tax. Jost says he would have opposed a gas tax increase. But he conceded it would have been nearly impossible for him and other conservatives to challenge whether it was constitutional.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a conservative Republican, said this month that he will consider increasing that state's 20-cent gas tax to help repair infrastructure after the bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) is also considering increasing that state's gas tax to address transportation needs.

In Virginia, instead of defending a gas tax increase, some legislators are squirming over the public outcry over the abusive-driver fees. If there is any doubt the abusive-driver fees are making politicians nervous, look at Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William).

Lingamfelter's position on the abusive-driver fees -- he supported them but is now calling for their repeal -- has generated numerous angry letters to the Potomac News, a daily newspaper serving Prince William. The paper's editorial board struck back: "This is not the kind of representative voters should want representing them."

Lingamfelter, from a Republican-leaning district, isn't taking any chances.
Yesterday, he was scheduled to appear at a news conference to unveil several bills to combat domestic violence, though the legislative session is four months away.

Welcome to what is shaping up an abusive-driver-fee driven election year.
The elections probably will prompt a debate, particularly in congested Northern Virginia, about whether an increase in the gas tax is a better way to pay for transportation. The conventional wisdom about supporting a gas tax increase in an election year might no longer be valid.
What is that price of gas again?

Transportation Case Study 3B: Giving more money to roads

This is the second point of view that the national budget needs to be redistributed and that infrastructure should be made a priority over other initiatives that are receiving more funded: Mainly, the Iraqi War:

The first of two articles is:
Newspaper: TC Daily Plannet
Byline: Richard Lee Dechert
Date: 8/7/2007

The I-35W Bridge: A Casualty of Pennies and Priorities

this http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/article/2007/08/07/i-35w-bridge-casualty-pennies-and-priorities.htmlpage
Reprint rights
By Richard Lee Dechert , Special to the TC Daily Planet
A perfect example of those pennies and priorities is the $687.6-million Iraq War cost for the City of Minneapolis, and $11 billion for the State of Minnesota.(1)

The $687.6 million is more than half of the 1.3-billion 2007 Minneapolis spending budget,(2) which in turn is only about two-thirds of a $1.8-billion Bechtel National construction contract. According to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, contract objectives were met on less than half of the projects.(3)

Opinion:The I-35W Bridge: A Casualty of Pennies and Priorities
The $11 billion nearly equals the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) spending budgets for 2002 to 2007, a period which spans the war.(4) That cost is only about a fourth of the "roughly $40 billion in American taxpayer money spent on the troubled program to rebuild Iraq."(3)
Overall, we have paid $462 billion for a fraudulent war, at a $1,500 per-capita cost.(1)

Per the American Society of Civil Engineers,"27.1 percent of the nation's 590,750 bridges rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete in 2003. A 2005 "Report Card . . . estimates it will cost $9.4 billion a year for 20 years to eliminate all bridge deficiencies."(5)

Yet Iraq War godfather "Bill Kristol claimed the Minneapolis bridge collapse didn't 'symbolize any great failure of our infrastructure.' Bush said he would veto a bill that would increase the national bridge and highway maintenance budget from $4 billion to $5 billion."(6)

Mn/DOT projected a $200-million cost to reconstruct the bridge; Congress quickly passed a $250-million bill that also funds Twin City transit costs.(7).

Per Larry Pogemiller, DFL Majority Leader of the Minnesota Senate, the "failure of this bridge metaphors the under funding of infrastructure improvement throughout the system. . . . The competency and quality of government is in question."(8)

Per DFL Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Murphy, we have "at least a $15-billion problem" for not investing "over a 12-year construction cycle . . . an issue for the Commissioner (of Transportation, Republican Carol Molnau), people like myself, and the Governor (Republican Tim Pawlenty)."(9)
Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, lead Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, replied "that even if we had passed a significant gas-tax increase (which Pawlenty twice vetoed), I'm not so sure it would have made a difference, unfortunately, in this situation . . . it's a matter of priorities."(8)

"John Adams, an urban geographer at the University of Minnesota, says public infrastructure like 35W has been taken for granted for decades . . . politicians have been trying to do government on the cheap.'"(10)

The monetary costs of the bankrupt Iraq War may exceed $2.3 trillion. Its unrecoverable human costs are 52 dead and 441 physically or mentally wounded Minnesotans, along with 3,398 and 25,395, respectively, from other states. (1)

Merging those costs with penny-wise, pound-foolish presidents, members of Congress, governors, state legislators, and people who support them--a shattered bridge, blocked river, choked roads, harmed companies, over 100 injured Minnesotans, at least 13 dead ones, their traumatized loved ones, and the shocked people of our state and nation--an I-35W collapse is sadly predictable but totally unacceptable.

As a tearful and angry Amy Klobuchar said: "A bridge in America just shouldn't fall down!"

This second article is one that I just loved and agreed with, and it's not neccessary to read for understanding the case studied (AKA if you think this case study is too much reading, skip this article), but I just wanted it to have a wider audience and be read by more people:
August 2, 2007 Thursday 11:29 AM Eastern Time Actually, It Is Terrorism - by Greg Anrig, Jr. LENGTH: 674 wordsDATELINE: NEW YORK Aug. 2
Following is commentary by Greg Anrig, Jr. vice president of programs at The Century Foundation. Anrig is a regular columnist for The Guardian. He is the author of the forthcoming book, "The Conservatives Have No Clothes: Why Right-Wing Ideas Keep Failing" (John Wiley & Sons, September 2007).
- - - -
The news coverage of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, like that of the New York City steam pipe explosion a couple of weeks ago, was filled with expressions of relief that the incident seemed to be unrelated to terrorism. But for the families of those killed or injured, the distinction won't be any consolation. And for the rest of us, it shouldn't be either. Why should it be any more comforting to know that intentional sabotage was not responsible for the bridge collapse, when chances are that whatever contributing structural deterioration that occurred over its 40 years is no doubt far more pervasive in the transportation systems we all use every day.
Making us less vulnerable to sudden, out-of-the-blue preventable disasters is the job of government. And a collapsing bridge, an exploding underground steam pipe, the inadequate levees in New Orleans, or the countless breakdowns in infrastructure that Steve Perlstein (http://commonsense.ourfuture.org/thebigcon) chronicles on an everyday basis are virtually all preventable and therefore constitute failures of government. Cutting taxes some more isn't going to solve this form of terrorism. Nor will prattling on with banalities about limited government. Nor will continuing to leave the process to the whims of the likes of Sen. "Bridge to Nowhere" Stevens.
Unfortunately, "investing in infrastructure," stated as such, probably isn't much more of a winning political plank today than it was a week ago. The right has successfully programmed the public's brain cells to convert that soporific phrase to the word "pork." Based on my extensive googling for a half hour, none of the major Democratic candidates have said much about the topic outside of how it relates to the environment and global warming. (Commenters should definitely correct me if I'm wrong). I didn't bother googling the Republican candidates since all conservatism has to say about infrastructure is silliness related to the efficiencies of selling chunks of it to private owners.
So rather than talking about infrastructure as such, maybe politicians should focus on the subject as a matter of public security, which it most definitely is. Just as the government is responsible for protecting the public from terrorism, it is equally responsible for protecting citizens against lethal failures of bridges, roadways, other transportation systems, and underground structures that can cause collapses. And developing a far more effective and efficient strategy for improving public security against disasters like the one in Minneapolis requires the leadership of individuals who actually believe in government's capacity to solve problems - a belief fundamentally at odds with the modern conservative movement, as demonstrated in recent years. Those candidates might want to take a close look at the ideas put forward by the group led by Felix Rohatyn and Warren Rudman, summarized in a piece in the Washington Post two years ago (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/12/AR2005121201 263_pf.html).
Whatever particular causes emerge for the collapse of the Minneapolis bridge, conservatives have no answers for preventing the same kind of thing from continuing to happen again and again. As Perlstein continually argues, they have much to do with why it keeps happening in the first place. The rest of us better find someone who isn't cowed by the "pork, pork, pork" crowd on the right who is willing to suggest some ideas that will work.

Transportation Case Study 3C: Restructuring Priorities

The third school of thought is that the money needs to be restructured and prioritized. This article from the Henderson Times stresses changing the way existing funding for highways is used so that it's not as need-based and more oriented towards maitnence and upcoming. A large part of the existing problem the article maintains, is that politicians can gain enthusiastic support for new projects because they give the appearance that progress is being made.

Newspaper: Hendersonville Times

Date: 8/7/2007

Byline: Susan Saulny and Jennifer Steinhauer

MINNEAPOLIS, Aug. 6 — In the past two years, Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota twice vetoed legislation to raise the state’s gas tax to pay for transportation needs.

Now, with at least five people dead in the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge here, Mr. Pawlenty, a Republican, appears to have had a change of heart.

“He’s open to that,” Brian McClung, a spokesman for the governor, said Monday of a higher gas tax. “He believes we need to do everything we can to address this situation and the extraordinary costs.”

Even as the cause of the bridge disaster here remains under investigation, the collapse is changing a lot of minds about spending priorities. It has focused national attention on the crumbling condition of America’s roadways and bridges — and on the financial and political neglect they have received in Washington and many state capitals.

Despite historic highs in transportation spending, the political muscle of lawmakers, rather than dire need, has typically driven where much of the money goes. That has often meant construction of new, politically popular roads and transit projects rather than the mundane work of maintaining the worn-out ones.

Further, transportation and engineering experts said, lawmakers have financed a boom in rail construction that, while politically popular, has resulted in expensive transit systems that are not used by a vast majority of American commuters.

Representative James L. Oberstar, Democrat of Minnesota and the chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, sent out a news release last month boasting about Minnesota’s share of a recent transportation and housing appropriations bill.

Of the $12 million secured for the state, $10 million is slated for a new 40-mile commuter rail line to Minneapolis, called the Northstar. The remaining $2 million is divided among a new bike and walking path and a few other projects, including highway work and interchange reconstruction.

The $286 billion federal transportation legislation passed by Congress in 2005 included more than 6,000 earmarks, which amounted to blatant gifts to chosen districts, including the so-called Bridge to Nowhere in rural Alaska (that earmark was later removed after a political uproar).

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said in a telephone interview Monday that earmarks for transportation in federal legislation were “almost always new construction and not maintenance.” Earlier, Mr. Schumer said that he would introduce legislation next month to double a proposed federal transportation bill appropriation, with a focus on upkeep to $10 billion.

“The bottom line,” Mr. Schumer said, “is that routine but important things like maintenance always get shortchanged because it’s nice for somebody to cut a ribbon for a new structure.”

Last week, Representative John L. Mica of Florida, the ranking Republican on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, met with advisers to the Bush administration to urge a nationwide plan to address transportation needs. Rebuilding the I-35W bridge would be only “a Band-Aid” Mr. Mica said, “to a much more serious problem.”

“We don’t have any kind of strategic plan to deal with infrastructure, and we’re falling behind,” he said.

In statehouses across the country, legislators tried this past session to fill some of the void by passing bond acts or allocating money to improve roads, bridges and other pieces of the transportation system.

In Arkansas, lawmakers set aside $80 million, 15 percent of which will be used to repair county roads, 15 percent for city byways and the rest for its highways. New Mexico approved a $200 million plan for local and tribal road projects, and in Texas, $700 million was allotted for state transportation projects over the next two years.

Voters in California this year authorized nearly $20 billion in transportation bonds to pay for repairs and make other improvements to its taxed system.

“We still barely scratched the surface,” said Adam Mendelsohn, the communications director for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican. “The governor is very concerned about the lack of attention that the federal government has given to infrastructure. It is probably no more acute than in California because of the tremendous strains from population growth.”

The federal budget for transportation comes largely from excise taxes, particularly on gasoline, set by Congress at 18.4 cents in 1993 and eroded over time by inflation and fuel efficiency. As such, over the last decade, state legislatures in 14 states have voted to raise the state gas tax 19 times. And several states are looking at toll roads and congestion pricing initiatives to help shore up the roads.

The National Conference of State Legislatures, a group with members from all 50 states, is calling for a 3-cents per gallon increase in the federal gas tax.

C. Michael Walton, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Texas, Austin, helped write a series of reports issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers that have repeatedly found the nation’s highway system with insufficient money. “Continually falling short of the actual needs,” Professor Walton said, results largely from “our backlash to increases in taxes.”

Professor Walton said states had been looking to the federal government for leadership. “I am not sure transportation falls to the top of the priorities as it should barring a catastrophic failure,” he said in reference to state government spending.

A study released in May by the Urban Land Institute and Ernst & Young found that 83 percent of the nation’s transportation infrastructure was not capable of meeting the country’s needs over the next 10 years. The American Society of Civil Engineers, in its latest national report card, gave transportation infrastructure a D.

Meanwhile, there are urgent needs. The Interstate highway system turned 50 last year and is showing signs of age and inadequate upkeep. Around St. Louis, for instance, old bridges, rocky roads and tight ramp loops have led to a shutdown of parts of Interstate 64/Highway 40 — one of the most important corridors in the state — until late 2009.

“It’s so easy to let this stuff slip,” said Robert Dunphy, a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute.

The national highway system, originally called the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, came into being under the Eisenhower administration. (The country’s population was 169 million then, and there were about 54 million registered vehicles on the roads.) It was spurred by fears that Americans would have a mobility crisis if the country were attacked in a nuclear war. By the 1970s much of the system was completed.

But since then, the nation’s highways have eroded with age and use, especially in areas like the Southwest where population booms have far outweighed the ability of roads to carry the new drivers.

Typically financing for capital transportation projects comes from the federal government matched with funds from states, which are then charged with maintaining the roads and bridges.

But the federal government and states operate trust funds, filled with revenues from various excise taxes, which have been unable to maintain existing roadways adequately or finance capital expenditures. But it may often be less the amount allocated for transportation than how it is doled out that leads to eroding highways, some critics say.

“Highway funding is supposed to be on the basis of need,” said Raymond Helmer, a transportation consultant in Houston who has worked on transportation projects for over 50 years. “There is supposed to be cost-benefit analysis, and every state does a study as required by federal government and comes up with needs, but then politicians say, ‘I don’t want that road here, I want it here.’ ”

Some transportation experts also said that though light rail and other public transportation projects made sense in cities, investing in them in sprawling suburban regions might not, even if the systems were supported, in theory, by the public. “Too many American cities are spending far too much money on expensive rail transit projects, which are used for only 1 to 2 percent of local travel, and far too little on highway projects which are used for 95 to 99 percent of local travel,” Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, said in an e-mail interview.

There has also been more emphasis nationwide on building new roads than on the maintenance and upkeep of old ones. Steve Ellis, the vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a group that monitors federal spending, said that might help move traffic in some places, but it left many others with the equivalent of a leaky roof.

“It would be irresponsible of me to go out to dinner if I couldn’t fix a leak in my roof,” Mr. Ellis said. “But that’s essentially what we do. We don’t take care of what we’ve got, but we talk a lot about building more and new.”

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fall TV Review

So far I've seen:
K-Ville: As a strong advocate for raising awareness for Katrina, this show does a service to that cause, but the cop characters are seriously cliched, and the references to Katrina are really forced upon the script. It might also be possible that Anthony Anderson is overrated.

Back to You: Maybe Kelsey Grammar is destined to be Frasier Crane forever, because I have to admit it's hard to see him as anything else. I love shows that take place at TV stations and am even a sucker for mediocre copy-offs of that form like the 2-season long Good Morning, Miami, but this falls a little flat. I think too much screentime goes to Kelsey Grammar when there are a lot more interesting characters like Fred Willard that I'd like to see more of. It has the potential to get better.

Kid Nation: It's not that bad or inhumane at all. I found it kind of cute. And I kind of like reality shows where there's no elimination.

Chuck: First off, I've already seen this show when it was called "Jake 2.0." That show, about a computer programmer at the NSA who gets involved in one of those toxin/nanoprobe accidents that has been used as a convinient superhero-creating plot device since the origin of comic book heroes. In this case it turns geeky Jake into a human computer. The show ran approximately five years ago for a single season but it's rerun quite frequently enough on the sci-fi channel that a casual viewer like me can get familiarized with the series and subsequently feel weary of Chuck for it's lack of originality.

Granted, there are a few differences: Chuck isn't superhuman, he just knows secrets, but when they use the word "human computer" to refer to Chuck, I just think this is trying too hard to be Jake 2.0. But all in all, it's an entertaining show so far. I like the cast of characters: The cool brother-in-law, the caring-but-overbearing sister, the geeky sidekick are all great additions and Zach Levi is an affable lead. It's funny, because I've seen the show Less than Perfect, but can't remember him in it for the life of me. The efforts to keep the sexual tension in place between Chuck and the female CIA agent seems a bit forced, however. The way she turns from mouthwateringly flirtatious mode to this-is-business mode indicates she couldn't care less about him, so I'd perfer the show stay consistent with that tone and make it so that Chuck is just trying to see something in her where nothing really exists.

On another note, I didn't really believe a lot of the show. Although, it's supposed to be light-hearted fun, even the most pessimistic view of our current administration doesn't hold that CIA and NSA regularly go around killing American citizens over bueracratic turf wars without the directors of one or both agencies getting fired in a public scandal (which, by the way, is a good thing I think).

Journeyman-It sounded cool but it didn't really hold my attention, unfortunately.

Bing Bang Theory-I really find it entertaining and even though it packs massive cliches into each of its characters, the whole nerd-hottie dynamic is something quite original to see for a TV show. Besides, nerdiness can make for great humor as evidenced by the character of Sheldon: the protagonist's snarky roommate who for all his great intelligence doesn't know when to keep his mouth shot. Sadly, I don't think it has too good of a chance of surviving because laugh-track sitcoms are an uphill battle.

Pushing Daisies-Pleasantly quirky. I would have said that there's no more room for another murder mystery on TV, but then again reviving the dead and putting them back to sleep has never been done before. Kristin Chenowith is a pleasant addition to any cast, Chi McBride plays his usual Mr. Grumpy character, the main character doesn't particularly look star like but he holds up ok, and Anna Friel is easy to fall in love with as the girl-next-door type. And on the subject of naming Anna Friel's character Chuck: why is it suddenly hip and sexy to give your female characters guy's names?

Big Shots-Not worth even watching the pilot to see if you like it or not.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

MASH TV vs MASH the movie

Is there much of a debate over whether the TV show or film is better?

When I first saw the film about a year ago, it made the TV show look extremely hackneyed and cheap by comparison.

I don't know which most people think is better, but I do know that people consider MASH the show to be one of the best shows of all time. I mean, it's hard to believe that MASH is even a good show when you see someone take the same source material and make it so much better.

MASH the show has Alan Alda firing off one-liners like he's Groucho Marx and it's just dumb. Alan Alda turns MASH into the George Burns and Gracie Allen show. Coupled with that, they try to mix the humor with those special "message" episodes that are all too gooey. MASH is easy to write: Just take a regular sitcom with witty dialoguse and set it in Korea, and then to make sure it's enough about the war, add in some message-oriented moment at the end of the episode.

The film had no borders between funny moments, mundane moments, and deeper moments, and it didn't rely on simple one-liners that could be written by any decent stand-up comic. The film's jokes were more overarching.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Super list-obsessed

I think every arts and entertainment writer is slowly figuring out that the public likes lists and we're all now list producers. I felt I might have an easier time getting a piece published on actors who should win a second oscar if i just counted up the names and organized them into ten. I even had to delete a name or two off my list to make it a round number.

I was looking for a good preview of fall films online (Premiere used to have a good one, but alas they've gone out of business), so I had to go to the ew.com and I found it there. Does anyone know if I can order back issues?

EW.com also had a list of the 20 most chill-inducing moments in tv and film, but this is really a very jumbled and scattered list submitted by users and these kinds of lists rely more on short-term memory (i.e. the season finale of Heroes makes the list, Fantasia winning American Idol). The list is here:

My main complaints here are that:
1. Lists shouldn't be everything there is to entertainment/culture writing. We should be able to have attention spans long enough to read articles that aren't in list form
2. If you're going to make a list of the greatest something of all time, you shouldn't go with just things that are really recent. A list of greatest TV shows that includes that puts the Simpsons, Seinfeld, or Sopranos at the top ignores the fact that television existed before 1990 and produced some incredibly influential and sharply-written work that when put side by side with Simpsons, Seinfeld, and Sopranos might prove better than those shows. (Besides, I prefer The Practice, The Office, and Arrested Development to the above three shows)

Ed Wood Review

I’m starting to learn that I usually find one work that I love from every director. I’ve never been a particularly big fan of Lubitsch and have no idea why a far superior director, Billy Wilder, felt that Lubitsch was a good. But I absolutely love Ninotchka. I don’t think the Coen Brothers are the great ushers of comedy in the post-modern era that others make them out to be, but I feel the same way about Oh Brother Where Art Thou. For Stanley Kubrick, that film would be Paths to Glory and for David Lynch, Mullholland Drive.
I can understand Tim Burton’s cult following but it’s just personally never been my cup of tea. I like his two installments of Batman and have appreciated them more in retrospect but his offbeat visions in Edward Scissorhands, Beetle Juice, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were too bizarre for me, and although I can appreciate a good animated films as much as the next casual film goer, I’m personally not a film connoisseur of film animation which explains why I didn’t go gaga over the animation innovations of The Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Ed Wood, however, is a brilliant idea for a biopic and it’s a celebration of film making and a justification for it, even if the results are less than stellar. The subject of the film is a moderately eccentric man (played by Johnny Depp) who has attracted a cult following after his death by virtue of being considered the world’s worst director. I know that’s a hard title to place when you have guys like Michael Bay and Raja Gosnell still floating around along with countless film school graduates who have never even made it out of small-town film festivals. What separated Wood from the directors who spew out commercialized crap, however, was that Wood aspired to be Orson Welles and (in the film’s portrayal of him, at least) he was so optimistic and upbeat about it that he thought he was well on his way to becoming him. That’s what the film’s about. It’s that life isn’t about success or failure but rather by creativity and how much you love what you do. Wood is portrayed as a winner because he dared to direct films and there’s no better way to celebrate filmmaking than finding merit in the worst filmmaker.
I think it was also interesting that with the exception of his first girlfriend, Wood had a creative team (i.e. Bill Murray’s character, the wrestler) that followed him through all of his creative pursuits and acted as a quasi-support system. If this story weren’t based on fact, I would be left to wonder why these people would keep working with him despite the fact that he failed so often and I think that’s another way that the film highlights Wood’s optimism. Perhaps, this is a parallel to Orson Welles’ consistent use of the same people and his famous repertory company called “The Mercury Players. Of course, Wood’s relationship is closest to Boris Karloff, his idol as a kid, who he later befriended and had the privilege of directing him in film after film. The relationship between the two and the chemistry between Depp and Martin Landau is at the heart of the film. Landau, by the way, is stellar and very deserving of his award.
As for the question of what separated Wood from the many people who never made it far past film school, there was surprisingly little. Wood’s films were mostly independently produced and he was largely an unknown commodity when he died. He gained fame when his film “Plan Nine from Outer Space” won a book-sponsored contest in 1981 of the worst films of all time. It’s a film that was shown in the first week of my first film class and it’s high number of inconsistencies and bloopers are very easy to spot. The movie answered questions for anyone whose watched this film about why it was made so haphazardly: Apparently, it was simply made as a way for Wood to appease his landlord and Burton’s film has this great sense of dramatic irony as Jonny Depp’s character says, “I know this is the film I’ll be remembered for,” but not in the way he wanted.