As ELi’s Publisher, I get to have some say over the work I do for ELi, and I’m going to admit that one of my favorite jobs is getting our readers’ questions answered. In today’s “Ask ELi to Investigate” grab bag, we cover four sets of questions for you!
Reader question: “Can anything be done about toning down the July 4th fireworks in East Lansing? This will be my second year living here and my neighbors across the street started shooting off fireworks in the street at dark and continued for several hours. I could not sleep or breathe because of the air and noise pollution. It terrorizes the wildlife, too.”
In 2012, the City of East Lansing’s Council greatly restricted the use of fireworks in the City. But then, in 2019, legislators at the State level pushed through a measure reducing Michigan cities’ legal abilities to limit firework usage. That meant East Lansing had to widen legal permission for fireworks usage to conform to state law. You can read more about all that in ELi’s archives.
If someone is using fireworks in East Lansing outside the legally permitted days and times, you can call the East Lansing Police Department to make a noise complaint. But whether an officer pursues a charge is up to them, not you.
The new Neighborhood Resource Specialists in ELPD can help with just these kinds of disputes, so it’s never a bad idea to contact them if you are facing a quality of life problem because of a neighbor’s behavior.
Regarding the accident that occurred near the intersection of Harrison Rd. and Saginaw St. on May 30 – which caused a protracted Metronet outage for about 800 customers – a reader asked ELi via Twitter, “Any word if the driver was okay or what caused the crash?”
We asked East Lansing Deputy Police Chief Steve Gonzalez to respond to this reader question, and he did:
“The crash occurred shortly after midnight on 5/30/2021 when a single vehicle (passenger car) left the roadway striking the utility pole. The collision caused significant damage to the pole resulting in wires coming down onto the roadway. The driver of the vehicle sustained minor injuries, but did not require transport to the hospital.”
Gonzalez also said, “Both ELPD and ELFD secured the scene until the Board of Water and Light could respond to make the down lines safe and restore the electrical service that was impacted. The investigation found that the driver was ‘fatigued or asleep’ leading up to the crash.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Drowsy driving is a major problem in the United States,” and “up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year may be caused by drowsy drivers.” Learn more about the dangers of tired driving here.
“Dear ELi, I’ve got a question that has always bugged me. It’s about the two sets of railroad tracks that cross at Harrison. Let’s call the ‘north’ track the one that serves Amtrak and that crosses Hagadorn at the Hannah Plaza – and the ‘south’ track the one that crosses at Mt. Hope (by the MSU Credit Union) & Hagadorn (by Red Haven). Here’s my question: Why are the ‘south track’ crossings made of nice, smooth concrete and the ‘north track’ crossings made of unlevel, bone-jarring wood? I was so disappointed when they re-did the crossing in front of the train station several years ago and continued to use wood instead of replacing it with concrete. Thanks!”
These tracks are owned by different railroad companies. The “north” track is owned by Canadian National Railway (CN), and the “south” track by CSX. In the past when I’ve contacted these companies for ELi reporting, they have responded, but in this case, neither answered my inquiries. I suspect that is because they don’t want to talk smack about each other.
My own research into railway operations – conducted not only because I wanted to answer this reader’s question, but because I am a geeky, avid reader of Trains magazine – suggests that the decision of how to construct and maintain a roadway’s crossing of a railroad track depends on a lot of factors, including cost, what kinds of vehicles will be using the roadway and the tracks, local environmental conditions like weather patterns and soil types, and more.
CN and CSX obviously made different decisions in these cases – and they’re not telling us the reasons for those decisions.
My favorite find in this research is this report from a railroad operators committee on “Highway Crossing Construction.” I don’t know when it was written, but the textual and photographic clues suggest the 1940s. That report warned railroad operators against “bring[ing] down upon their railroads the wrath of the driving public, which includes many shippers” who might choose a competitor railroad if they find themselves driving over “certain rough grade crossings that we would somewhat shamefully admit were a part of our railroad.”
The report went on to note, “The comments of a back-seat passenger who cracks his head against the top of the car in going over a railroad track are not fit for publication.” We thank our reader for not cussing in his question to us.
Reader question: “Can ELi give an update on the solstice jazz fest? Where can we ‘gather’ to enjoy it?”
Justin Drwencke is the City staff person working on the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival and setting up “viewing” opportunities for this year’s format.
We passed on the reader’s question to him, and he explained, “It’s been challenging to find a vendor partner with access to an LED video screen powerful enough to be viewable in the daylight. One vendor that I spoke with said many production companies and tech providers survived the pandemic by selling equipment. I think I have a solution at this point but I am waiting on firm numbers to make sure it’s within festival budget.”
We will keep you informed as we learn more. Just a reminder – you can make a tax-deductible donation to help the Jazz Festival, either online or by sending a check. To donate by check, contact Justin Drwencke by email.