Return To Sender

writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2“You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter. Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.” —Writing 101, Day 5

I was moving boxes in a storage room at the Golden Gate Bridge when I accidentally knocked over a stack of file folders. Yellowed and cracked papers fanned out like so many decks of cards. Cleanup was easy as most of the papers were partly in their respective folders.

The last folder that I picked up had a single sheet of paper that stood out from all the rest and the aged onionskin paper captured my curiosity. In the letter, Mr. Leon S. Moisseiff, Consulting Engineer, discussed the subject of Center Line Markers for the multi-lane bridge.

“…I have arrived at the conclusion that a permanent marking line at the center of the roadway will be the best for the bridge…” —Leon S. Moisseiff, Consulting Engineer

If I could return this letter to Mr. Moisseiff, I would ask him the reconsider his decision to use paint as a barrier for oncoming traffic. In my opinion, the best solution would have been to design a wider bridge and allow for a permanent traffic barrier between the lanes of opposing traffic. This would not have been possible since construction of the bridge was well under way at the time of this letter.

A study of accidents on the Golden Gate Bridge by Northwestern University covering the years 1991—1997 had the following results:

  • 298 accidents
  • 36 crossover (head-on) accidents
  • 15 injury accidents
  • 4 fatalities

Currently, a project is underway to add a Moveable Median Barrier (MMB) to the Golden Gate Bridge. According to the Bridge District:

“The proposed Moveable Median Barrier (MMB) system includes about 13,340 feet of barrier consisting of 12-inch wide and 32-inch high steel clad units filled with high density concrete tightly pinned together to form a semi-rigid median barrier. The system also includes two barrier transfer machines, aka “zipper” trucks. The installation of a one-foot wide MMB would virtually eliminate crossover collisions.”

I hope that after 81 years this action will eliminate a major design flaw without creating a new set of problems.

  2 comments for “Return To Sender

  1. June 7, 2014 at 4:45 AM

    Like so many things, the letter was written when we moved more slowly and our cars were built of steel. I wonder, would his answer have been different today?


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