These bad birds have been hanging around the back yard, looking like delinquents on the street corner. The one below is an immature Cooper’s Hawk sitting in our burr oak. It is staring past the empty bird feeders toward the evergreen bushes where the sparrows like to hang out. The Cooper’s got flustered and flew away when I stepped a little closer.

Cooper’s Hawks are rather opportunistic birds and bird feeders present a splendid opportunity. They also engage in “still hunting,” or just waiting patiently until dinner presents itself.

I filled the feeders yesterday afternoon, drawing all sorts of sparrows and other birds – like this one.

And then it flew straight up and into the bushes.

I waited to see if it caught a bird slow of wing. I missed the exit, but a bit later my roomie saw the Cooper’s at the edge of the driveway. After it was gone, we checked the spot. There was a small pile of feathers from a small bird. Guess the hunt was a success.

VA cemetery: wet, dark under WisDOT’s double-deck proposal

The 30-foot high double-decker freeway the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is proposing for I-94 would cast winter shadows over the northern part of Wood National Cemetery for most or all of the day, according to the I-94 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

The cemetery already is divided by I-94, which is now grade level. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is planning to expand the freeway and is considering double-decking it through Wood and neighboring cemeteries. The other cemeteries would be affected by the shadows as well, the DEIS says.

“During the winter months, the shade could extend up to 250 feet into the north part of the (Wood) cemetery,”  the DEIS says. That cemetery section, however, is only about 200 feet wide north to south, according to measurement with a rolling tape measure.Where the shadows would fall — Story Hill resident Steve Brachman stands at the northern end of the northern section of Wood National Cemetery. The picture is taken from the southern end. The cemetery section is about 200 feet wide; the DEIS says shadows from a 30-foot high double-decker freeway would extend 250 feet.

The northern part of the cemetery already has poor drainage and often is wet, according to  the DEIS.

Wood is operated by the National Cemetery Administration, which has as its mission to honor “veterans and their families with final resting places in national shrines and with lasting tributes that commemorate their service and sacrifice to our Nation.”

One of the purposes of the agency, according to its website, is to “maintain national cemeteries as national shrines, sacred to the honor and memory of those interred or memorialized there.”

Says the cemetery administration: “We will maintain the appearance of VA’s national cemeteries in a manner befitting a national shrine.”

The DEIS says that during the summer months, areas of the cemetery just north of I-94 “would experience portions of the day when they would not be shaded.”

Still, the DEIS says, a 0‐ to 10‐foot strip would be shaded for a “large portion” of the day, but grass could grow.

“With the right grass‐seed mixture, it would only need about 2 hours of sun per day to grow,” it says. It also says that WisDOT might help improve drainage at the site.

WisDOT contentions die in fiery crash with truth

WisDOT wants us to believe that if only I-94 had more lanes there would be fewer crashes, and fewer people would be maimed or killed.

One of the main reasons for rebuilding I-94, WisDOT says in the I-94 reconstruction / expansion Draft Environmental Impact Statement, is to “address the obsolete design of the I‐94 East‐West Corridor to improve safety and decrease crashes.”

That crash you hear is WisDOT’s spin job slamming into the hard wall of facts presented by 1000 Friends of Wisconsin. The group got a set of crash data and did its own analysis of crashes from 2005-2009, the same time frame examined by WisDOT. Here’s a few of the findings.

  • There were five fatalities that occurred on the stretch between 2005 and 2009. All of these happened outside of peak hour congestion periods, usually late at night or early in the morning.
  • Of 42 incapacitating injuries that occurred – only 11 took place at peak hour.
  • Of a total of 1,373 crashes that resulted in injury, or possible injury in the selected time period, speeding was a factor in over forty percent.  
  • Alcohol was a factor in 35% of all crashes that resulted in incapacitating injury or death.
  • Of a total of 4,745 crashes, 71% were rear-end and sideswipe crashes. Only sixteen of 2,659 rear end crashes resulted in incapacitating injury (6%) – and speed was a factor in fifty percent of those. Half of these crashes occurred outside peak hour, even though the corridor has far lesser traffic volume during that time.
WisDOT’s own Strategic Highway Safety Plan, which 1000 Friends notes was ignored in the DEIS, contends that “Nationally, speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, failing to yield, and running red lights contribute to approximately 93 percent of traffic crashes. In 57 percent of these crashes, driver behavior is the sole reason for the crash.”
The accidents were not caused by congestion and not by design flaws. They were caused by bad driving. And on I-94, the vast majority of most serious crashes occurred when the freeway wasn’t crowded.
Not exactly a persuasive arguments for spending a billion dollars to add lanes.