Plenty of permits remain as new parking garage opens

Monday, February 28, 2011 | 8:35 p.m. CST; updated 12:51 p.m. CST, Tuesday, March 1, 2011
The new parking structure at Fifth and Walnut streets, at far left, has become one of the main features of the Columbia skyline. The garage opens Tuesday. This panoramic photo was made by digitally stitching together 16 different images using the design software program Adobe Photoshop. It was shot with the photographer standing on her car looking east from the corner of Garth Avenue and Walnut Street.

COLUMBIA — There's plenty of room in the 10-story parking garage that opens Tuesday at Fifth and Walnut streets.

Of 522 permit spaces in the garage, 115 are sold, Columbia Public Works spokeswoman Jill Stedem said Monday.


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Stedem said the city isn't worried about selling the remaining permits.

"We will over time," she said. "The garage hasn't even opened yet. Once the garage is open ... then we expect to sell more."

She said other downtown garages weren't sold out when they opened.

Some people with permits in other city garages have been switching their passes to the new garage, but no one has been reassigned, Stedem said. The garage at Sixth and Cherry streets had the most customers switch.

Of the 115 permits sold for the new garage, 30 were purchased by new customers, Stedem said. The cost for permits is the same as at other city garages — $50 and $60 per month for uncovered and covered spots, respectively. Permits for reserved spaces cost $100 per month.

Some uncovered permit spaces on the roof of the new $14 million garage will be used for city vehicles. The Public Works, Water and Light, and Parks and Recreation departments will store vehicles there, Stedem said.

There's still a waiting list for other garages, despite the new space, Stedem said.

She said location and demand from businesses are why other city-owned garages are full and the Fifth and Walnut garage is not. For example, the garage at Eighth and Cherry streets is popular for nearby banks and their employees.

“It comes down to what businesses people work at and how close they want to be to that business,” Stedem said. “As time goes by, I’m sure there will be some people that want to be at the new parking garage.”

Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said having available space in the new garage is attractive to future businesses.

"When large businesses or banks seek downtown Columbia as a potential choice for locating their business, we have to have that space available," St. Romaine said.

The new garage was slated to be finished in July, and the city has been fining Graham Construction $500 a day for the delayed opening, Stedem said.

Some days will not incur fines because of weather; fines will be assessed once the project is completed. There is currently no available tally of how many days the construction firm will be penalized for, Stedem said.

Even when the garage opens, some concrete and sealing work will still need to be done when the weather warms up to finish the project, Stedem said.

Colored glass that will be installed around the northwest staircase, financed by the Percent for Art program, is being imported from Germany and will be installed in April, Stedem said. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place once the glass is installed.

Retail and office space on the first floor of the garage will not be occupied right away, said Mike Brooks, president of Regional Economic Development Inc. REDI, which is moving into about one-third of the 13,500 available square feet, will solicit construction bids around the end of March.

REDI estimates it will cost about $350,000 to occupy the new space. Brooks said the organization hopes to relocate in July or August.

REDI had sent a grant request to former U.S. Sen. Kit Bond to help build a downtown business incubator in the space, Brooks said, but the grant was not approved.

Increased parking meter fines also take effect Tuesday. Minimum city parking meter fines will go up from $5 to $10. For fines not paid within 15 days, the price will increase from $15 to $25. The higher fines are expected to generate an additional $100,000 a year.

St. Romaine said the fine increase is not all about more revenue. The city hopes the increase will free up metered spaces downtown more quickly.

"At five bucks, it wasn't really serving as a deterrent," St. Romaine said.

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Robin Nuttall March 1, 2011 | 8:50 a.m.

It's an ugly eyesore. It used to be that driving Eastbound on Broadway, when you crossed Garth and came down the hill toward Providence you got a beautiful view of the courthouse dome and the pillars. Now that is completely obscured by this hideous garage that wasn't needed, isn't selling spots, and looms over everything else in downtown. Way to sell our city. Come to Columbia! See all the ugly garages! Nothing else to look at, cuz you can't see anything else...

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 1, 2011 | 9:42 a.m.

And they're going to build ANOTHER one on the east side of downtown.

IIRC, this garage was justified by a 2001 study that estimated the District to need another 600 or so spaces by 2015 or so. Unfortunately, a lot has changed since then, and the need for parking is much less due to lower than projected occupancy and a sluggish economy.

Maybe it can be made into apartments in 50 years or so...


(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle March 1, 2011 | 11:34 a.m.

Oh dang, I forgot to check this thing on my way into work this morning. Just the thing for a little lunchtime bike ride - ascending the BORG! I want to know if I can see the roof of my house from the top of that thing.

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 1, 2011 | 11:56 a.m.

Mark F. - "and the need for parking is much less due to lower than projected occupancy and a sluggish economy."

Remember the Soviet Union when they thought they could grow cotton? Used water from Aral (largest inland sea in world) Sea for irrigation. Cotton didn't grow. No one thought to divert the water back and Aral original water volume was reduced by 90%. Thats what governments do- screw up. And some around here think gov't should run everything.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield March 1, 2011 | 12:32 p.m.

Do the 115 sales include the police department? If not, what do the cops bring the total to?

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 1, 2011 | 1:47 p.m.

frank christian wrote:

"Thats what governments do- screw up."

Everyone and everything screws up - governments don't have a monopoly on that.

Screwups like the Cuyahoga River catching fire, Love Canal, and the Deepwater Horizon all happened independently of government. People (and governments are made of people) just act in their own self interest. Sometimes it works well and sometimes it doesn't.


(Report Comment)
Robin Nuttall March 1, 2011 | 1:54 p.m.

703 spaces, and only 13 handicapped spaces? Only 120 metered spaces. The rest are supposed to be permit parking. That's another of my huge gripes about our local parking garages. Even when I *do* try to park in one, the metered spaces are all gone. So you get a ticket for parking in a permit spot even when most of them are empty...

Meanwhile, as a regular at Taj Mahal during this big mess of construction, I have never, ever had trouble finding a parking space. Who do they think is going to park at this particular location, especially with the retail spaces not filling? Yes, I agree we needed something for the police. But this monstrosity we did not need. What was a sunny, bright corner is now gloomy and unbalanced.

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger March 1, 2011 | 1:58 p.m.

@DK. In a sense, Deepwater Horizon occurred "independent of government," as you say. But had government regulators been doing the job they were supposed to, i.e., enforcing the regulations for deepwater projects, there's a chance that such a tragedy might have been averted. Incidentally, now that matters have been (presumably) fixed, deepwater projects have been greenlighted--as of yesterday.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 1, 2011 | 2:25 p.m.

St. Paul informs us in the New Testament that "...all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory."*

The "all" could reasonably be applied to governments as well as to individuals.

*- The wording you find may be slightly different, depending upon which version of the New Testament you prefer. There are a number of versions to choose from.

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 1, 2011 | 3:02 p.m.

Mr Hank Ottinger - The formality so all can be aware to whom we are writing. Just kidding.
You are correct about the gov't regulators and this spill. This from "":
"Most incriminating were the episodes described by this Washington Post article from earlier this month, in which the Interior Department "exempted BP's calamitous Gulf of Mexico drilling operation from a detailed environmental impact analysis." I have read that Ken Salazar went to court twice for permission to exempt BP from the environmental regulations. Obama gave the "green light" to deepwater drilling with approval of 1(one) permit. Wasn't he in contempt of court as well?

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger March 1, 2011 | 3:46 p.m.

Oh Frank, you kidder, you....

Plenty of blame to go around on this issue. But the point is that, I hope, problems have been rectified, and it's now tougher to get a deepwater permit--as it should be. If you don't think that's the way it ought to be, talk to the thousands of fishermen, beachfront property owners, recreation and tourist venues that were decimated by the disaster. May these things never happen again.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle March 1, 2011 | 4:22 p.m.

Rode my bike to the top. Love the view! It's definitely worth the trip. I can't quite see the roof of my house from there (maybe I could with binoculars) but it's still a new and interesting view of town.

Coming down on my bike (at a good clip), the pavement is actually rather rough and washboard-like. Going up, slower, is no problem.

About 100-ish spaces seen used around noon today. I wasn't the only gawker either.


(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 2, 2011 | 7:54 a.m.

hank ottinger wrote:

"May these things never happen again."

Except they will. While it is obvious there were serious lapses in oversight and maintenance on the Horizon, I think something like this would have happened sooner or later no matter what government or industry did. Perhaps under an ice cap next time.

If regulators (and the general public - sometimes you've just got to do it yourself) would address our excessive "need" for energy, we could remove the fundamental reason for drilling in such difficult places. In the absence of such actions, we can only expect more of the same over time.


(Report Comment)
hank ottinger March 2, 2011 | 8:30 a.m.

@DK. Alas, I suspect you're correct.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 2, 2011 | 9:19 a.m.

Hank & Mark:

How about one of the most famous examples of lack of maintenance.

Management at Three Mile Island was told by their technical staff that a pump in a critical circuit was about to fail. It was recommended that the plant be shut down immediately so that the pump could be replaced.

Management didn't want to shut the plant down.

Surprise! The pump failed, starting what became known as America's "nuclear disaster."

(Most of the "disaster" was the result of panic on the part of the operating staff, trying to make adjustments without understanding what was happening in the reactor. All studies of the incident have agreed that if they had left the reactor controls alone the reactor would have shut itself off, just as Babcock & Wilcox designed it to do. When all else fails, read the instructions.)

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 2, 2011 | 9:55 a.m.

Hank O. - Not to belabor the subject,but did you not hear from the thousands, you referred to, that they want to return to WORK? The Obama moratoriums caused the loss of thousands of jobs and millions in income, as well as the millions in revenue for the Governments. The Obama administration was, in fact judged to be in contempt of court and ordered to pay legal costs of the business entities that had to bring suit to lift them. 103 drill permits have yet to be acted upon by the administration.

Steve Forbes just said that Obama's action with our energy, from nuclear, oil drilling, shale research etc are enough to bring the United States "to its knees". You, Mark, and the rest,of course,would rather refer to it as "preserving our resources and the planet"

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 2, 2011 | 10:39 a.m.

frank christian wrote:

"103 drill permits have yet to be acted upon by the administration.

And they will. Any politician, however, will have to take into account the political backlash of another accident, and is going to move slowly and deliberately. Also, a mere 103 drill permits aren't likely to produce an amount of oil that is worth losing a lot of sleep over. Even if these permits were issued tomorrow, it wouldn't make much difference.

On oil shale, Salazar simply ordered a delay in the permits until some environmental issues could be studied. Permits are being issued again, and have been for about a year. The reason this research and drilling is not going full speed ahead is economic, not regulatory. It's really expensive and slow to produce this stuff, and environmentally messy, and it will not offer significant production for at least a decade. A lot of companies question whether it is worth it in this market.

You should remember that the spill also caused a lot of loss of income to people that relied on the Gulf waters for their livelihoods. Regulators have to make a reasonable effort to make sure the likelihood of another accident is diminished.

Forbes is just grandstanding. We could far more easily be brought to our knees by an oil embargo than anything the government has done or not done. Using less resources is a good way to make it easier to replace them.


(Report Comment)
hank ottinger March 2, 2011 | 4:15 p.m.

Frank writes, "You, Mark, and the rest,of course,would rather refer to it as "preserving our resources and the planet"

Hank answers, "You're damn right!"

Enlighten yourself, and re-read DK's post.

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 2, 2011 | 9:03 p.m.

Mark - Won't spend a lot of time here, since you may be gone,but, I've been reading to verify my contentions about the federal government and our energy problem and yours are just flat wrong, or false. Oil shale can keep us in inexpensive energy for more than ones lifetime and it is gov't, not economics holding us back.

Another note, Steve Forbes, one who admitted in a run for Presidency, that the fortunes of the United States would not effect his life in any major way, because "I've been blessed". Referring to his wealth. Why would you assume that he was grandstanding and for what purpose?

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger March 2, 2011 | 10:10 p.m.

Frank writes, "Oil shale can keep us in inexpensive energy for more than ones lifetime and it is gov't, not economics holding us back."

First of all, it's not economically feasible, and should it ever become so, the environmental destruction wreaked on the west would be catastrophic. People, particularly those who reside in the affected states, wouldn't stand for it.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle March 3, 2011 | 11:51 a.m.

RE: Oil Shale: I'm pretty sure we will eventually recover a lot of that oil, regardless of environmental impact. It will not only become economically feasible, it will become economically necessary. Damage the environment, or die from starvation. Which would you choose?

But I don't know what right-wingnut websites Frank has been reading to convince himself there's "more than one's lifetime" of oil in shale deposits. Here are the current figures:

US Oil Consumption: 7.5 Billion barrels/yr - 20.7 Million barrels/day

There are 2 primary figures for how much oil there is in American oil shale fields:

Several Wikipedia entries indicate all US oil shale deposits holds somewhere around 1.5 to 2 Trillion barrels of oil. That's over 250 years worth of oil at current consumption rates. Frank must be right. Right?

Then, you look at what is stated by the USGS and the oil recovery industry itself as "Recoverable with current technology," and, what actual current production rates are from the shale fields:

Bakken Oil Shale fields: ~4 Billion estimated recoverable barrels - ~400,000 barrels/day actual production.

That's about 7 months of current consumption, and daily production is only covering about 2% of daily use.

So... which is it? Do we really have 250 years worth of oil, or only 7 months worth?

The answer is: Right now, we have 8,000 years worth of 2% of our current consumption in oil shale reserves. That's what oil shale is actually giving us, right now: Two percent of our total consumption. Is that inexpensive, or closer to insignificant?

Recovery technology is not going to magically give us 10X more recovery capacity in the next few years. We need a 50X increase in recovery capacity to match our current consumption rates.

On top of all this, you have the "eat itself" phenomenon of energy production: it keeps taking more and more energy to recover a given amount of energy. Eventually, the amount of energy it takes to recover more energy becomes madness. Kind of like being liberal. Or conservative.

So,Frank, can you give us some numbers, something more specific than, "Oil shale can keep us in inexpensive energy for more than ones lifetime..."?

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger March 3, 2011 | 12:36 p.m.

Informative post, Derrick. Another major factor with regard to retrieval of oil from shale is the enormous amounts of water required. And as anyone who looks at a rainfall map would know, western states are dry states. On top of that, there's the not insignificant issue/hurdle of western water rights. (Whiskey's for drinkin,' water's for fightin' over," as the old saw has it). Downstreamers, especially those in agriculture, wouldn't tolerate losing that precious resource. And, assuming water does magically appear, once it's used for shale oil retrieval, it's fairly toxic, not only with heavy metals, but more worrisome, radioactive elements that traditional wastewater technologies don't remove. "Inexpensive energy"? Hardly.

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 3, 2011 | 1:41 p.m.

The Rand Corp. employed by Dept of Energy, among others in 2005, gave this assessment of oil shale at the Green River Formation (WY,CO,UT) if the midpoint estimate of 8ooB bbl are available, the reserves would more triple those of Saudi-A. If oil shale could meet 1/4 of our 20m bbl that resource would last 400 years.

In-Situ Retorting, (heating the shale below ground, where it lays) Shell Oil believes it could recover at around $25. per barrel. New tech., to keep fresh water and other unwanted liquid out of the recovery area, a wall of ice can surround it. This now in use in Federal strategic oil storage and at least one other place right now. Oil shale would reduce world wide oil prices. By producing 3 million barrels per day, the industry would realize a 20B$ per year profit. With lease agreements etc. about 1/2 would go to Fed, state and local gov'ts. Green River not the only deposits, only the largest.
This from CNN gives an idea what Democrats have done and are doing help us to this step toward energy independence. Minus - nothing!

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire March 3, 2011 | 3:35 p.m.

Oh there was so much oil shale production when Bush was in office and now the dirty democrats have ruined it for us all. Carter should have never even bothered to fund the research.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle March 3, 2011 | 5:05 p.m.

Quoth the Frank: "In-Situ Retorting, (heating the shale below ground, where it lays)..."

Ahem. More energy usage to recover the energy.

"...Shell Oil believes it could recover at around $25. per barrel."

And they aren't, because of evil government regulations?

"New tech., to keep fresh water and other unwanted liquid out of the recovery area, a wall of ice can surround it."

Again, using more energy to recover the energy.

"By producing 3 million barrels per day..."

Current production is just under 400K bbl/dy. How quickly do you expect them to achieve a nearly 8-fold increase in production capacity?

Anyway, we still use over 20 million barrels a day. Even the 3 million barrels a day you cite is still only 15% of total usage. Where's the other 85% coming from?

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 3, 2011 | 5:18 p.m.

Carter and Democrats condemned oil companies, created an "Energy Dept" to "control" them. When Congress allocated $600 M for "renewable" energy sources, Carter allocated the whole "kit and cabootle" to Mobile Oil. Oil Shale? More like, bought up and shut down new experimental solar companies that Jimmy supposedly supported.

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 3, 2011 | 5:34 p.m.

D Fogle - Sorry, I'm beyond playing "dueling intellects" with you. Ask Rand Corp and Shell Oil your inane questions. Only thing am going to add is, the "freeze wall" surrounding the recovery area was also used to protect the aquifer under "the big dig" around Boston MA. You may be right about the cost if that, E.M. Kennedy extravaganza, is any example.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle March 3, 2011 | 6:29 p.m.

FranK: "Carter...created an "Energy Department" to "control" them."

Yes, the very same energy department which you just cited as painting a very rosy picture of production and net reserves in US Shale Oil. They have apparently taken control of you, too.

"You may be right about the cost if that, E.M. Kennedy extravaganza, is any example."

...but somehow won't cost any money if any Republicans do it to recover oil.

C'mon Frank, the Carter Conspiracy Card is really lame. I was expecting something stronger, maybe a Heritage Foundation quote.

Dueling intellects, indeed.

The h4x354x0r

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire March 3, 2011 | 6:51 p.m.

Hark hark. Did a mouse squeak in the dark?

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 3, 2011 | 8:00 p.m.

I hate to repeat, but you really are Unbelievable. Try to understand and not change my words. "The Rand Corp. employed by Dept of Energy, among others in 2005, gave this assessment of oil shale at the Green River Formation (WY,CO,UT). Just deal with it!

"C'mon Frank, the Carter Conspiracy Card is really lame. I was expecting something stronger, maybe a Heritage Foundation quote." Absolute fact from that Administration?

"Dueling intellects, indeed." You should be glad it is ended. I win every time.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire March 3, 2011 | 8:10 p.m.

The mouse then bravely drew his imaginary sword and boldly slayed the shadow of his adversary, who was just rising for another cup of coffee.

Film at your own peril.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 4, 2011 | 3:44 a.m.

Couple of clarifications before this gets out of hand.

When one talks of "oil shale", one can mean a couple of different things. The oil in the shale formation of the Bakken is light, high quality oil, which is merely trapped in a very low permeability formation. Economic production of this oil involves hydraulic fracturing, which is a useful tool, but has also spawned about 1000 lawsuits for alleged contamination of groundwater. It's possible, even likely, that a lot of those may simply be attempts at the Lawsuit Lottery, but still, I imagine a substantial amount of the claims are well founded. This is another cost of this technology that is not factored in to cost estimates, and may limit its ultimate usefulness.

The "Green River Formation" does not contain oil. It contains an oil precursor called kerogen, which has to be cooked from the shale that holds it with high pressure steam. There is currently one demonstration play (Shell) of in situ extraction, and they're also setting up to try it in Alberta. This technology is years to decades from producing significant commercial oil. Ask Ellis Smith what kind of timetables industrial processes have from lab, to demonstration, to full production.

An 800 billion barrel reserve is meaningless to our situation. What matters is the rate at which this oil can be produced. Neither the Bakken not Green River will have anything resembling the production characteristics of a conventional oil field. Unfortunately a lot of pundits don't understand the difference.

Alberta's tar sands have taken over 30 years to go from zero production to 1.5 million barrels/day. Uncertainty over the price of oil has hindered investment in this field, and it is also hindering investment in Wyoming. A rational approach would be to gradually raise the fuel tax and support domestic production with it. The reason the fuel taxes in Europe are used for general revenue is they usually don't have oil reserves to exploit. That's not the case in the US.

There's also the issue that a lot of smart people, who know a lot more about climate than either you or me, feel that we need to limit the amount of carbon we put into the atmosphere, mainly to preserve our ability to feed ourselves. We may find that clinging to carbon based fuels will cause far greater problems than a sluggish economy.


(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 4, 2011 | 5:48 a.m.

Well Mark, you've stated the case so well I have only little to say.

Driving forces in process development are (1) a perceived market and (2) economics. Only governments seem to be in the business of perpetually losing money - but always for impeccable reasons!

Here's an example. A French patent for gasifying coal was issued as early as 1795! There is no record that anything came from that patent, possibly because the patent holder couldn't find financing. Coal, burned as coal, was cheap. Additional patents were granted elsewhere during the Nineteenth Century, with only limited use of the process.

In the 1950s I encountered a coal gasification plant used to provide fuel to operate one (1) tunnel kiln. In other words, the gasifier was "dedicated," and didn't provide gas as a public utility. That gasifier wasn't particularly efficient.

Today, thanks to the South Africans, we have developed, demonstrated and commercialized means of turning coal into clean gas, pretty much identical to natural gas. One reason why this happened is that it is now economic to do so (a profit can be made, just as the natural gas people make a profit).

You may have seen ads on national TV by the natural gas people stating that they have proven reserves of natural gas to last Americans a long time. Well, if that's true, think what the "reserves" would be if we added gasified coal. Does burning natural gas or gasified coal produce carbon dioxide? Yes, it does, but so does burning "biomass," much of which I'm willing to bet has lower caloric value (meaning that you have to burn more of it to produce the same calories).

Some breakthroughs in technology are the result of national emergencies ("war"). Examples can be found in aviation and nuclear fission. For those the federal government has had considerable involvement, and I think this is correct, as no private firm or consortium would have both the legal standing or funds to perform on a "crash" basis.

[On the other hand, some private firms like Schlumberger, a supplier of technology, instruments and personnel training for oil exploration, spend $1 billion of annual profits on research, because they know they will get the money back as profits.]

Most useful processes have come from the private sector. Let the pump price of gasoline reach $5 a gallon and you will see increased activity aimed at reducing gasoline consumption, including increased activity at achieving electric vehicles that will run 400 miles (a reasonable day's highway drive) on a charge.

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 4, 2011 | 8:15 a.m.

Mark F. - "attempts at the Lawsuit Lottery, but still, I imagine a substantial amount of the claims are well founded. This is another cost of this technology that is not factored in to cost estimates, and may limit its ultimate usefulness."

I can't imagine this statement to be true, or how you would know, if it was. Knowing that lawyers are now advertising for "sport fishermen" to apply for a payment from BP for damages due them because their access to Gulf fishing has been limited, due to the spill, you are contending that our industries don't include legal expense in cost estimates?

"The reason the fuel taxes in Europe are used for general revenue is they usually don't have oil reserves to exploit. That's not the case in the US." High fuel taxes in Europe are and always have been used to foment those governments insatiable thirst for money, the same reason our government has spent all of our SS deposits. They would do the same thing with a new gas tax. It should be noted that only Democrats in our government are thinking about more taxes on fuel.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 4, 2011 | 8:55 a.m.


It is difficult or impossible to factor the costs of litigation into "cost estimates." They cannot be accurately estimated in advance.

While it's a raw material (that had many uses) and not a process, the story of asbestos litigation is a good example. As late as 1970 few if any experts could have forecast the extent and costs of suits dealing with products containing asbestos*.

Higher motor fuel taxes in Europe and the UK (which actually IS an oil producer from North Sea fields) are in part to gain revenue to subsidize other forms of transportation, like passenger rail. Also, because of geology, Western Europe lacks the natural sources of asphalt we have in the United States. That makes highway maintenance costs (imported asphalt) higher.

*- On one hand I profited from asbestos litigation (as an expert witness and a technical advisor to attorneys) but I was also on a watch for years for mesothelioma (an asbestos-caused 100% fatal lung cancer). Occupational hazard.

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 4, 2011 | 10:17 a.m.

Ellis - The asbestos debacle makes a good point and its seriousness (I read that many of the ensuing suits actually had to do with asbestos), I'm sure, would make anyone in any industry consider it in their cost of doing business though a dollar amount may not be attributable to "legal" expense. Would you say,"This is another cost of this technology that is not factored in to cost estimates, and may limit its ultimate usefulness."?

Europe has an excellent highway system and all the secondary roads I used were of good asphalt. I was there shortly after Carnahan admin "lost" 15M$ of our highway funds. I have always said "we drove to St L., flew to Paris, rented a car and drove over Europe. Worst road, by far, was I-70 to St L. We put our gas tax money in a special fund and is used to build and repair our road system. Mark says Europe deposits them in general revenue, do you contend that those funds go explicitly to subsidize other forms of transportation? EU obviously created the hi-way system, everything else about the same as in fifties. Do you have information on their ability to create such a great highway system (I can attest only to France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands.)

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger March 4, 2011 | 10:19 a.m.

Frank writes, " High fuel taxes in Europe are and always have been used to foment those governments [sic] insatiable thirst for money..."

If Mr. Christian got out more, he'd note that much of that European gas tax goes into a quite fine system of well-maintained, state-of-the art roadways. By comparison, our crumbling highway infrastructure is close to third-world.

Higher taxes on fuel also drives conservation, public transportation, and energy-efficient vehicles.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield March 4, 2011 | 12:17 p.m.

How many of you are comfortable with the feds' proposal of supplementing the fuel tax with a tax based on how many miles you drive? This proposal is getting serious consideration largely because as government mandates increase fuel efficiency, fuel tax revenue declines.

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 4, 2011 | 12:22 p.m.

H. Ottinger - Not seeing answer from Ellis, looked around and find that the relatively new, 1975, EU road system was developed by UN economic and social commission and most are toll roads, (forgot that, they could zap your credit card without your signature. Unheard of by me in 1999.) which means to me, Europeans are paying with high taxes and again at the toll booth. Also, are in revolt over the taxes. You may have of the hiway slow-downs by truckers there.

My "getting out more" is probably over, due travel costs now. In the last 15 years, however, we have driven to the southern end of Texas, L.A. to Seattle, N.E. to Bar Harbor and every road in Fl that can get one from the N. to Homestead, last city before Keys. I strongly dispute your opinion,"our crumbling highway infrastructure is close to third-world." Again the worst roads I have seen in those travels were Missouri's roads, after our 15M$ disappeared from MODOT. We have now corrected that, citizens rejected an additional tax to make up the difference and our highway system is improving steadily. Your statement appears to be another "blame America" disparagement.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire March 4, 2011 | 12:43 p.m.

Oh and Jimmy, do you really believe that?

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger March 4, 2011 | 2:11 p.m.

OK, Frank, I'll admit I was a bit over the top with the third-world highway system. Probably because on a return from Italy, the first road we hit was I-70 coming home from the airport. Quite a contrast to the (non-toll) autostrada we took to the Venice airport. Trips to the west over the summer and fall were, for the most part, on reasonably good highways.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 4, 2011 | 2:24 p.m.


I haven't lived in Europe for over 50 years, but the shortage of local natural asphalt isn't apt to change with time*. This makes road maintenance costs higher there.

In another post I have extolled the virtues of European express trains [German = schnell zugs]. Both European railways and Canada's VIA Rail make Amtrak look pathetic, particularly for on-time performance.

My experience with Europe's secondary roads was that many of them are no better than the average "lettered" routes here in Missouri, and with little or no shoulders. I would agree (I've been back to Europe occasionally) that the super highways are good.

*- How much "indigenous asphalt" would one expect to be formed in just the last 50 years?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 4, 2011 | 2:45 p.m.

A tax based on how many miles you drive? So how is that to be determined? I mean the miles, not the tax. Is it going to be "Scout's Honor," or is the IRS going to send agents around to read all those millions of odometers?

There was a time when passenger vehicles received the data for their odometers via a device located in one of their front wheels*. I doubt any of today's vehicles have that archaic feature. (My Dad's Model A Ford had it, and so did a VW Karmann-Ghia coupe I purchased in Germany in the 1950s.)

It was oh-so-easy to disconnect the cable that connected the wheel device to the speedometer, meaning the odometer didn't register mileage. Of course you temporarily had no speedometer, a minor problem if you didn't drive too fast. With the Model A and the VW you could pretty well judge your speed from engine noise.

I can envision an entire "cottage industry" springing up around cheating on this method of taxation. :)

*- The device was not without problems. In winter ice could find its way into the mechanism; worse case, it could cause the speedometer needle to go berserk and even break off. I've seen it happen.

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 4, 2011 | 3:38 p.m.

While we're on the subject,we did note once that the concrete in MS had buckled more than in MO on I55. Quite a recommendation, right? In defense of MO roads,those in south have always seemed a little better, even in MO good times and have wondered if the lack of huge temperature swings might help maintenance of southern roads. Ellis, the 2nd roads were as you describe, two lane no shoulders, but, incredibly smooth, no holes and looked new. Another thought about asphalt. In FL, I95, I75 you get concrete then asphalt etc. I swear in the rain, the spray, always a problem in heavy traffic, there, or any where else is far less on the asphalt sections. See, I'm quite capable of conversation without bitching about Government!

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield March 4, 2011 | 4:38 p.m.

Ellis, the new tax regime would use some combination of GPS and cellular. That's what several pilot projects have used, such as

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 5, 2011 | 5:26 a.m.

Ain't technology grand! :)

(Report Comment)
Cole Kennedy March 7, 2011 | 2:07 p.m.

Wait, did I miss something? Did Columbia just build a deepwater drilling platform?

Guys, terrible analogy. Comparing local government to national government is just silly. They are totally different animals with vastly different responsibilities and priorities.

The CC did what they though was the best move to mend the rift between a focus on sustainable, downtown real estate and business development; and the primarily suburban, autocentric residents of Columbia. Good move by them - now, if this garage is successful, then they can consider the garage near the Regency Hotel.

(Report Comment)

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