It’s always a good idea to hold onto your hardhat when you are standing next to a semi as it screams by at 65 mph.
I’m working on a story about bridges in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I’ve been analyzing inspection data from the state Department of Transportation and talking to folks about the lack of money that’s needed to repair the hundreds of bridges in the region that are structurally deficient. The data is a lot like most government data, filled with codes and figures that correspond to certain things. The best way, I thought, to get a good idea of what it means when they give a bridge a certain rating was to hang out with the inspectors while they examined a bridge.
He’s called twice in the past five days, both times at exactly 7 p.m.
"Mr. Sweet, I want to talk to you about a friend of mine," he says slowly, almost pausing between every word.
This unknown caller is one of the more interesting parts of being a reporter. The first time he called, I bent over the keyboard and was able to create a near-perfect transcript of our conversation. His friend, he said, was the victim of police abuse.
“He’s very emotionally upset. It’s not that he’s an angel, but he has a bad nervous condition,” he said. “And the way the female officer treated him… He didn’t give nobody a hard time.”
As the story goes, this man’s friend was arrested for robbing a convenience store and spent “at least five days in jail.” When it came time for his arraignment, police released him because they realized they had arrested the wrong man.
With a little SQL and Fusion Table magic, I’ve mapped all the structurally deficient bridges in Wyoming, Luzerne and Lackawanna counties and set up the markers to correspond to each bridges sufficiency rating (the measurement of the bridge’s integrity with 100 being best). Some bridges have a high sufficiency rating but are still considered structurally deficient.