I-295 Closure in Portland Causes Traffic Disruptions | Maine News


PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The Maine Department of Transportation is closing a major highway and causing traffic disruptions — on purpose.

The closure of a key segment of I-295 in Portland this weekend represents a grand experiment in which workers demolish the old bridge and slide a new one into place in 64 hours, or less than three days.

The section of highway between Portland and Falmouth closed Friday evening, and won’t reopen again until Monday afternoon.

MDOT officials have been warning residents for months but they still anticipate major traffic problems as motorists seek alternate routes and clog lesser-used roadways in the region. On a typical weekday, about 53,000 vehicles use that stretch of I-295.

The technique of prefabricating a bridge and quickly moving it into place is the construction equivalent of ripping off a Band-Aid.

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It reduces highway disruptions to several days compared to an estimated four years of disruptions during typical construction, officials said. This is the first time MDOT has tried the technique.

The $20.8 million project calls for workers to destroy the existing bridge, remove the rubble and use massive self-propelled transporters to lift the prefabricated bridge deck into place, officials said.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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JetBlue is cutting its summer schedule to avoid further flight disruptions


JetBlue planes at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport

Leslie Josephs | CNBC

JetBlue Airways is planning to trim its summer schedule to avoid flight disruptions as it scrambles to hire ahead of what executives expect to be a monster peak travel season.

“We’ve already reduced May capacity 8-10% and you can expect to see a similar size capacity pull for the remainder of the summer,” Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s COO and president, said in an email to staff on Saturday, which was seen by CNBC.

The airline canceled more than 300 flights over the weekend, a week after bad weather in Florida kicked off hundreds of flight cancellations and delays on JetBlue and other carriers.

Airlines are scrambling to staff up to handle a surge in travelers this spring and summer. Staffing shortages contributed to hundreds of flight cancellations and delays last summer and airlines executives have been looking for ways to avoid a repeat.

“Despite these challenges and, based on your feedback that the schedule is wound too tight, we know the best plan is to reduce capacity now,” Geraghty wrote. “I think everyone recognizes that the industry still remains very much in recovery mode, so we believe this proactive step is the right decision.”

JetBlue didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Alaska Airlines last week said it would trim its schedule 2% through the end of June to handle a pilot shortage after canceling dozens of flights earlier in the month because of staffing shortages.

“We’ve recently let down some of our valued guests by canceling an unusual number of flights,” Alaska said Friday. “The primary cause of cancellations is the shortage of pilots available to fly versus what was planned when we built our April schedule in January.”

In her email, JetBlue’s Geraghty said the airline has hired 2,500 people so far this year and is still short-staffed. She added that the airline will share other measures to avoid disruptions with staff in the coming weeks.

“In the meantime, any and all ideas are welcome,” she wrote. 

JetBlue last week disclosed a $3.6 billion bid for budget carrier Spirit Airlines, throwing into question that discount airline’s deal to merge with fellow ultra-low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines.

U.S. airline executives will start detailing their staffing and capacity plans starting this week when Delta Air Lines reports first-quarter results. Other carriers report later in the month.



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New York ‘Ready To Address Any Potential Travel, Commerce Disruptions’ Caused By Canada Border Blockade – CBS New York






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Ottawa police expect another 24 hours of traffic disruptions, demonstrations from ‘Freedom Convoy’ rally


As demonstrators protesting COVID-19 restrictions remained on Parliament Hill Sunday night, city officials are urging people to avoid non-essential travel downtown and work from home if possible on Monday.

Elected officials, business owners, and residents are expressing frustrations with the ongoing traffic disruptions, fireworks and constant horn honking as the “Freedom Convoy” ends a second full day in downtown Ottawa.

“We’re making progress, there’s no real clarity yet,” said Chief Peter Sloly, adding police have been communicating with the core organizers of the “Freedom Convoy” and “those we can reach.”

“I think the only thing we can say for sure we’re still going to be dealing with some level of traffic disruption and demonstration over the next 24 hours.”

Ottawa police and the city of Ottawa are urging people to avoid non-essential travel on Monday, especially in the downtown core.

“If you work in the downtown core, please plan to work from home if possible,” said police Sunday evening.

The Ottawa Carleton District School has closed Centennial Public School on Monday due to the ongoing protest, while the Centretown Community Health Centre and the University of Ottawa –Minto Sports Complex Vaccination Clinic will also be closed.

Ottawa police say “several” criminal investigations are underway in relation to incidents on Saturday, including “threatening/illegal/intimidating behaviour to police/city workers and other individuals and damage to a city vehicle.”

At 7 p.m. Sunday, hundreds of people remained on Parliament Hill and along Wellington Street, while hundreds of trucks remained parked throughout the downtown core and along the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway.  The sounds of truck horns and fireworks could continue to be heard for a third night.

Ottawa police estimate the price-tag for policing the demonstration is more than $800,000 a day.

Earlier in the day, a large crowd had gathered on Parliament Hill to protest the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates at the borders and other public health restrictions, but the crowd wassmaller compared to yesterday.

While police have said they don’t know when the protest will end, rally organizer Tamara Lich told a gathering on Parliament Hill Sunday morning that, “We are not leaving until all of you and all of your kids are free.”

“We are not leaving until you can open up your businesses, we are not leaving until you can hug your best friend, we are not leaving until you can go see your parents in a long-term care facility, and for your children to have a birthday party. This ends now, and we’re going to do it peacefully.”

The Canada Unity website says it will begin hosting speaker events in Confederation Park on Monday.

There is also plans for a “Maskless Shopping”, with the website saying, “We need about 1,000 people .. maybe more.”

The “Freedom Convoy” protest has seen thousands of truck drivers and their supporters fill Parliament Hill and streets in downtown Ottawa, denouncing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and calling for an end to the restrictions 22 months into the pandemic.

Throughout the weekend, people have carried Canadian flags and signs around downtown Ottawa saying “Make Canada Free Again!”, “No More Vax Pass”, “We Support Truckers”, “Freedom to Choose”, “Freedom Not Fear”, and “Freedom for All.”

A few protesters were seen carrying flags and signs with hateful imagery such as a swastika. Several people carried large flags with “F*** Trudeau” or wore or carried signs that featured a yellow star.

A counter protester outside Parliament Hill held a sign saying, “Vaccines Save Lives.”

The Rideau Centre closed its doors for the day on Sunday, The LCBO closed several outlets in the downtown and Glebe neighbourhoods. Police also set up barricades to block vehicle access to the National War Memorial after several vehicles parked there on Saturday.

In a statement Sunday afternoon, police said it was “very aware” of complaints relating to parking, idling, noisemaking and other inappropriate behaviour.

“At this time, due to safety concerns, management of the protest and traffic must take precedence,” said police.

  • Ottawa police say the priorities for the rally include:
  • Management of traffic issues (including gridlock)
  • Keeping peace and order
  • Protecting monuments
  • Addressing threatening and/or high risk behaviour. 

Ottawa police reported no incidence of violence or injuries so far during the “Freedom Convoy” demonstration in downtown Ottawa. Police told CTV News Ottawa Sunday morning that no arrests were made Saturday or overnight.

“Large crowds remained in the downtown core throughout the night and were actively managed by police. Officers encountered several challenges with demonstrators, including sporadic road blockages by trucks, which officers worked to clear. These high-risk situations were de-escalated and resolved with no arrests,” police later said in a news release.

Thousands of people and vehicles filled the streets of downtown Ottawa on Saturday, forcing the city of Ottawa to declare, “Streets in the downtown core are closed due to gridlock. There is no more room for vehicles.”

Motorists are being asked to avoid travelling into the downtown core due to the number of vehicles already in the area.

Mayor Jim Watson told CTV News on Saturday that it was time for the protest to end.

“My message, again, is clear – You’ve been here, you’ve made your point, you’ve protested, you’ve disrupted a lot of communities – the ByWard Market, Centretown and so on in our city – it’s time for you to go back to your home,” said Watson on CTV News Channel. “Because we have to start rebuilding our economy because COVID-19 has been devastating to a lot of small businesses.”

Ottawa is the final stop of the Freedom Convoy, a cross-country journey to Parliament Hill to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Hundreds of convoy participants arrived on Friday, while the main convoys from eastern and western Canada rolled into town on Saturday.

Frustrated residents

As the protest continued on Parliament Hill, elected officials and residents expressed frustration by the disruption to their lives in their neighbourhoods around the downtown core.

The sounds of fireworks and truck horns continued through the night and into the morning, and vehicles remained parked on many streets.

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney is asking police to remove vehicles from Queen Elizabeth Driveway and residential areas.

“Centretown residents have had enough. All-night honking; music; swastikas; public urination & defecation,” said McKenney on Twitter. “I have asked @OttawaPolice remove protestors from the QED & out of all residential areas. Residents deserve peace and relief from these disgusting acts.”

Coun. Jeff Leiper says vehicles have parking on streets in his ward, located several kilometres from Parliament Hill.

“After a chaotic protest arrival, I hope that security forces now have a much more complete understanding of who’s involved, their numbers, locations and tactics. I would like to see clear efforts to contain and conclude this demonstration,” said Leiper on Twitter.

“Everyone wants to see this end safely, but we do want it to end. The incidents downtown we witnessed yesterday make clear the lack of moral authority on the part of participants to claim legitimate protest rights.”

Leiper says he has seen video of a protester driving on a Parkdale Avenue sidewalk and received reports of aggressive behaviour in Westboro.

“Residents are angry, and demonstrators’ behaviours are only exacerbating that anger. There is no win here for demonstrators if the protest continues as it has.”

In a tweet Sunday afternoon, officials say police and city staff are “very aware” of complaints about parking, idling, noisemaking and other inappropriate behaviour.

“Due to safety concerns, management of the protest and traffic must take precedence. These matters will be responded to as resources become available,” said police.

INTERPROVINCIAL BRIDGES

Ottawa police say the Alexandra and Portage bridges, connecting Ottawa and Gatineau, are closed to vehicle traffic today.

The Champlain Bridge is open, and there are lane reductions on the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge.

Police say the Chaudiere Bridge is open for health care and essential workers only.

“Be prepared to show identification,” said police. “If you are neither, do not use the bridge.”

ROAD CLOSURES

Many streets in downtown Ottawa are also closed to vehicles, with only one lane open for emergency vehicles.

You could see traffic impacts on:

  • Wellington Street
  • Queen Street
  • Metcalfe Street
  • O’Connor Street
  • Lyon Street
  • Kent Street
  • Sir John A Macdonald Parkway
  • Queen Elizabeth Driveway
  • Laurier Avenue and Elgin Street around Confederation Park

What is the Freedom Convoy?

The Freedom Convoy is calling for the end of vaccine mandates in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“On January 15th, a small team of Alberta truckers, their family members and friends, came to the decision that the Government of Canada has crossed a line with implementing Covid-19 vaccine passports and vaccine mandates,” said a statement Wednesday on the Freedom Convoy 2022 Facebook page.

“As of today, we now have the support of millions of Canadians from across the country.”

The list of demands includes the federal and provincial governments terminating the vaccine passports and all other “obligatory vaccine contact tracing programs”, and terminate COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

The protest was initially sparked by outrage over a vaccine mandate imposed this month on cross-border truckers, but has since garnered support from anti-vaccine mandate groups.

In a statement on Friday, the Freedom Convoy organizers urged participants to “treat all police officers with respect” and “do not make any type of threat.”

“If we keep calm and show love and support for one another, many things will happen. We will eventually cause the government to reverse its policy on Covid passports and vaccine mandates as the UK has recently done,” said Facebook post.

With files from CTVNews.ca writer Christy Somos 





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Detroit Metro to have 5G buffer zone to limit travel disruptions


Romulus — Telecommunications companies have agreed to implement a 5G buffer zone around Detroit Metro Airport to help limit travel disruptions when they upgrade service to the region.

Detroit Metro will be one of 50 hubs across the country, including in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles, at which wireless communication companies AT&T and Verizon have agreed to create buffer zones when they launch C-Band 5G services on Jan. 19, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday. 

“Safety and security are the top priority for the Wayne County Airport Authority,” Erica Donerson, vice president of Communications & External Affairs for the authority, said Sunday.

“… Over the next six months, the Airport Authority looks forward to receiving additional information from the FAA regarding the effectiveness of these buffer zones to mitigate potential impacts of 5G interference, as well as guidance regarding next steps when the mitigation measures expire.”

An airplane prepares to takeoff from the McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metro Airport in Romulus.

The announcement followed warnings that the next planned stage of 5G cellular service rollout may interfere with airplane electronic systems that are critical for flight operation in bad weather, while airlines were experiencing thousands of flight cancellations and delays

The aviation industry contends that 5G signals could interfere with the altimeters that measure how high off the ground an aircraft is using radio waves, potentially endangering landings, particularly in low visibility or otherwise poor conditions.

“The agency sought input from the aviation community where the proposed buffer zones would help reduce the risk of disruption. Traffic volume, the number of low-visibility days and geographic location factored into the selection,” the FAA said Friday. 

Telecommunications companies maintain that C-band has not caused harmful interference, said Nick Ludlum, senior vice president of communications for CTIA, which represents the industry in the U.S., Sunday. 

Ludlum added that C-band operates in nearly 40 countries where frequencies are operated from the same distance and at the same or higher power levels than U.S. providers plan to launch Jan. 19. 

AT&T and Verizon committed, however to the buffer zone through July 2022 in a Jan. 2 letter to the Department of Transportation and the FAA.

The measures they have committed to include limiting the power levels of C-Band 5G antennas directed above the horizon to reduce skyward emissions and reducing C-Band emissions on public helipads.

In addition, the power levels and antenna height of nearby C-band 5G sites will be limited to reduce their associated emissions in areas around runways, taxiways and gates for U.S. commercial and regional airports. 

The providers have also committed to reducing signal levels by at least 10 times on the runway or during the last mile of final approach and first mile after takeoff, the Jan. 2 letter said, and adopt the C-Band radio exclusion zones already in use in France and described as “one of the most conservative (approaches) in the world.” 

“We know aviation safety and 5G can co-exist and we are confident further collaboration and technical assessment will allay any issues,” the companies said in a statement Monday.

The wireless companies agreed earlier to an additional two-week launch delay while negotiations took place, pushing the planned early December launch date by around six weeks, said Ludlum. 

The companies had initially rejected the request which was made by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the FAA. 

halbarghouthi@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @HaniBarghouthi



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Travel disruptions put a damper on holiday celebrations : NPR


NPR’s Rachel Martin talks to David Slotnick, senior aviation business reporter at the travel website The Points Guy, about COVID-related staffing that has led to thousands of flight cancellations.



RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

So I was on a lot of airplanes over the holidays. And yes, it was super crowded in those airports. But my family and I actually didn’t have any issues with delays or cancellations. However, a lot of people did and still are. Thousands of flights have been canceled. Hundreds more are already on the books for today and tomorrow. Now, some of this is because of winter storms. But airlines are blaming a lot of it on staff calling out sick with COVID.

David Slotnick is with us now. He’s the senior aviation business reporter for the travel website The Points Guy. David, thanks for being here.

DAVID SLOTNICK: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So it’s part of your job to talk to people traveling the friendly skies. What have you been hearing from passengers as of late?

SLOTNICK: Well, so it’s really twofold. It’s pretty funny because a lot of people have had experiences like what you just described. I did, certainly, traveling over the Christmas holiday. So for some people, they’re a little confused about why there’s been so much fuss because their flights have gone without a hitch. On the other hand, I’ve been hearing from people who have had flights delayed for hours, days, even a week.

MARTIN: Oh, gosh.

SLOTNICK: People have been stranded. People have had a lot of trouble getting home. And there have been people who’ve been rescheduled by the airlines and just seen flights canceled one after another – every day just cascading. So it’s been a bad situation for sure for the people who’ve been affected.

MARTIN: Right. And for anyone who’s ever gone through this, you get a flight canceled, and they say you got to call (laughter) to get it rescheduled. That is a nightmare – trying to get an actual human who can help you on the phone.

SLOTNICK: It is definitely a challenge. The good news is that there’s a lot of this that you can do yourself these days. A lot of the times when our flight’s canceled, you’re rebooked automatically. And if it’s not a flight that you like, you can change it within the app or on the website yourself. But there are some times that you need to get through to a human. I have a coworker who called one of the airlines and cited an 11-hour wait time…

MARTIN: Oh.

SLOTNICK: …As she was trying to get home from a wedding this week.

MARTIN: Oh, my…

SLOTNICK: So…

MARTIN: That’s…

SLOTNICK: …Definitely not ideal.

MARTIN: Yeah. So, I mean, how much of your job is predictive? Like, what are you hearing from airlines about how long these disruptions will go on? I mean, they do have a follow-on effect, right? It’s hard to catch up once these cancellations start.

SLOTNICK: Yeah, absolutely. So now that we’re past the worst of the holiday week, I think that looking back, this really was more of a perfect storm than we even realized at the time. These weather storm – these winter storms just hit different hubs around the country – all pretty major hubs – Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Detroit. And it just created a mess that was on top of the people who’ve been calling out sick with COVID as the omicron cases have surged around the country. And this was all during the busiest travel week of the year.

So the situation now is a little bit different. Demand plummets. This is usually the very low season for airlines. There’s, in a perfect world, more business travel for them. That’s happening a little bit less as offices have pushed back reopenings again. So the good news there is that there’s more room for airlines to negotiate. There’s more of an ability for them to maybe combine flights or cancel flights proactively and then reschedule people just in advance. So that’s the good news. The bad news is I think this is really going to mirror the rest of the pandemic. So as it surges around the country, I think we’re going to keep seeing delays like this ebb and flow. I mean, pilots are just part of the general population. So…

MARTIN: Right.

SLOTNICK: You know, if people in one city are getting sick, then it makes sense the pilots who are there are also going to get sick.

MARTIN: I mean, we know that the industry writ large – the airline industry – has just been ransacked by the pandemic. Airline CEOs told Congress last month that they’re having trouble hiring enough employees. The flight attendants union says employees aren’t as eager to take on overtime. United and Spirit Airlines just decided to offer more pay to onboard staff. Is that kind of incentive going to help?

SLOTNICK: It definitely helps. It just may not be enough in the short term. A lot of people are – I mean, they’re tired. It’s the same as any other labor market – people who’ve been working under these conditions, which are difficult at best, for the last two years. And I think it’s just, you know, a lot of burnout, just like we’re seeing in other sectors.

MARTIN: Senior aviation business reporter David Slotnick with The Points Guy.

Hey, David, we appreciate your time and context. Thanks.

SLOTNICK: Thanks so much for having me.

Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.



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Travel Startups Say Omicron Disruptions Create Opportunities


Americans are taking their vacations, despite the rise in Covid-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant. But they want greater flexibility and are taking more precautions, which is benefiting startups that aim to help people navigate the new realities of pandemic travel.

Executives at startups offering services such as flexible booking, apartment stays and touchless hotel check-in say business is holding up so far.



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Southwest offers staff extra pay, frequent flyer miles to avoid holiday travel disruptions


A baggage handler pushes a bag near a Southwest Airlines airplane at Hollywood Burbank Airport in Burbank, California, October 10, 2021.

Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images

Southwest Airlines on Saturday offered its flight attendants new incentives aimed at avoiding more flight cancellations, particularly over the peak holiday period, amid concerns over staffing, according to an internal memo.

Southwest canceled more than 2,000 flights around Columbus Day weekend, disruptions the air carrier said cost it $75 million. American Airlines, which is also offering flight attendants and other crews extra pay for holiday shifts, struggled with mass flight cancellations late last month and in early November as well.

Flight attendants, pilots and other operations employees could receive up to 120,000 Rapid Rewards points, valued at more than $1,400. Flight attendants are eligible for working 36 days between Nov. 15 and Jan. 14, while cabin crews who work 28 days over that period could get 60,000 points, the note stated. Southwest said that the number of qualifying shifts or days varies by work group.

The number of no-shows or unreachable flight attendants has been elevated recently, Southwest’s vice president of Sonya Lacore, vice president of inflight operations, said in her note to cabin crews, which was reviewed by CNBC. Sick calls have surged as well when the company has lifted emergency policies that required flight attendants to show a doctor’s note if calling out ill. For example, Lacore said when the airline last lifted those procedures on Nov. 9 sick calls went from 20 an hour to 90 an hour for two hours in a row.

“We have a great opportunity here to uphold that commitment to them, and you, in the midst of what has been a difficult time for us all,” wrote Lacore. “Our first step in addressing this, and actively working to protect the operation, was to reduce the schedule, and we believe this incentive program will take us another step in the right direction.”

The airline is also offering as much as triple pay to ground operations employees for working Thanksgiving and Christmas and double pay for overtime shifts between Nov. 17 through Nov. 30 and Dec. 17 through Jan. 3, up from time-and-a-half pay.

Airlines had offered staff early retirement packages and leaves of absence to cut their labor bills during the pandemic but found themselves short-staffed when demand bounced back this year. More flight attendants are returning to American and Southwest from leave, while those airlines and others are also aggressively hiring.



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