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harryc Oct 5, 2008 9:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 3840840)
The blue thing is a piece of rubber that isolates the rail from the tie, to reduce vibrations and noise. :tup:

Thx

Chicago Shawn Oct 5, 2008 9:54 PM

Quote:

^ Convince your employers to move downtown.

All of those office parks in the suburbs are part of the problem, IMO. You can't just blame the expressways. Why did Brenda Barnes move Sara Lee from downtown to a site close to her home? It's NIMBYism, but the opposite--(Nothing in my backyard except my job, regardless how much it affects everybody else's commute). This office park phenomenon is the greatest problem and, in my observation, a major cause of this whole congestion mess. I don't see any inadequacies in the highway system, it's just fine as far as I've seen.

More companies need to do what BP and United Airlines just did. BP in particular is moving 1000 employees downtown because many of those employees are traders who live in the city and pressured the company to do so.
Exactly! It doers not matter how many lanes we add to the Kennedy, it will still back up because the 90-94 merge will always be a bottle neck during rush periods. Remember when the Hillside Strangler was "fixed"? It only moved the slow period further east. After all the money that went into it, your average time savings is about 1.5-2 minutes. Adding lanes to expressways rarely is a long term solution, it only adds traffic volume that must be dumped somewhere else be it surface streets, major expressway interchanges or a narrow section farther away. The only real solution to rush period congestion is a massive region wide staggering of work hours, or better land use planning in conjunction with transit upgrades. Allow more people to live closer to work in higher densities and stop allowing major super-low density business parks to step up shop wherever they please in the exurbs forcing everyone to drive.

Chicago Shawn Oct 5, 2008 9:57 PM

On a transit note, has anyone else noticed how much the El noise has dampened on Wabash Avenue with the new rails, plastic ties and rubberized clamps? The trains ride noticeably smoother now too.

whyhuhwhy Oct 5, 2008 10:08 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 3840479)
^ Convince your employers to move downtown.

I believe suburbs need hospitals no?

Quote:

All of those office parks in the suburbs are part of the problem, IMO. You can't just blame the expressways. Why did Brenda Barnes move Sara Lee from downtown to a site close to her home? It's NIMBYism, but the opposite--(Nothing in my backyard except my job, regardless how much it affects everybody else's commute). This office park phenomenon is the greatest problem and, in my observation, a major cause of this whole congestion mess. I don't see any inadequacies in the highway system, it's just fine as far as I've seen.
The 2nd lowest highway lane per capita in the country with a weekday average inbound of 90 minutes from O'Hare to downtown with a transit option in place during rush hour shows inadequacy.

Quote:

More companies need to do what BP and United Airlines just did. BP in particular is moving 1000 employees downtown because many of those employees are traders who live in the city and pressured the company to do so.
I'm not sure if moving all the jobs to downtown is an answer. Not every employer is the size of and has the income of BP or United Airlines!

whyhuhwhy Oct 5, 2008 10:16 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chicago Shawn (Post 3840847)
Exactly! It doers not matter how many lanes we add to the Kennedy, it will still back up because the 90-94 merge will always be a bottle neck during rush periods.

That's the whole point... you fix the bottleneck of the merge if you add lanes to the Kennedy. Right now you have two 3 lane freeways going into 4 lanes. That's a problem. I'm not sure why we need an extra 4 shoulders on the Kennedy for express when we could easily have 6 lanes in each direction and hence no bottleneck. Everyday I angioplasty vessels to get rid of bottlenecks in a very ironically similar fashion. It is important to keep things free flowing for efficiency in the body and I'm sure transportation is no different. It is interesting seeing people in this region that just don't care and think we should let things get worse without talking about solutions.

Quote:

Remember when the Hillside Strangler was "fixed"? It only moved the slow period further east.
You are right that's the whole point, it was never "fixed" it was just moved east. The problem was always the 3 lanes at the Avenues, and still is. They never fixed the bottle neck, they just moved it. The Eisenhower is not what I'm worried about as the real fix to the strangler is coming soon: http://www.eisenhowerexpressway.com/...ew/default.asp

Quote:

Adding lanes to expressways rarely is a long term solution, it only adds traffic volume that must be dumped somewhere else be it surface streets, major expressway interchanges or a narrow section farther away.
It is quite the opposite actually, highway CONGESTION dumps volume and clogs our arterials. The reason people even use them is because the highway system is so backed up. My friend lives downtown with me and works in Rosemont, a perfect candidate for using the Kennedy. But instead he uses surface streets and saves about 5 minutes to get there. Amazing. My other room mate works in Berwyn. He clogs up Cermak Rd with the rest of them because of the strangle at the Avenues on 290.

Quote:

The only real solution to rush period congestion is a massive region wide staggering of work hours, or better land use planning in conjunction with transit upgrades. Allow more people to live closer to work in higher densities and stop allowing major super-low density business parks to step up shop wherever they please in the exurbs forcing everyone to drive.
Or how about instead of proposing "massive" change that will take an entire generation we just fix a few of the horrible bottle necks in the region? What is your solution right now to the bottle necks I'm curious?

Anyways I'm not sure how were are going to "stop" suburban business expansion, nor why we would even want to. One thing that is not helping against it is the congestion getting into downtown. It isn't exactly a major selling point to an employer to keep transportation bottlenecks due to either poor planning or underfunding so that it takes an hour and half to get into the city during rush hour. But I guess we could "force" companies to locate downtown in this metro and force the people too, or just get the hell out of our state I suppose? And what do we do about all the business that are out there already? Close 'em up and tear down everything? Rosemont where my room mate has a job for instance isn't exactly a ripe new exurb. Neither is Berwyn where my other room mate works.

ardecila Oct 5, 2008 11:32 PM

It doesn't take an hour and a half to get into the city using Metra, unless you live way the hell out in suburbia... Metra is $12 round-trip from any point 1 hour away from downtown, and even less if you live closer to downtown, plus about $3-5 for station parking, so roughly $16 total. Buying a monthly ticket will reduce your costs even further. Driving downtown, even with no congestion, will still probably cost about $8-10 in gas and $20 for parking, and that's the absolute best deal... most people pay more. Roughly $28 total. Taking transit to get downtown is always gonna be the better deal, unless you carpool and split gas/parking costs.

I'm actually in favor of the Eisenhower widening to some degree. First of all, it is an actual bottleneck - 290 is 4 lanes coming out of downtown until Central Ave, and then narrows down to 3 lanes for 7.5 miles, then widens to 4 again just before 88 splits off in Hillside. It seems justified. Plus, the additional lane would be HOV (ie carpool lane).

Plus, the most recent talks about the project have included decking over the Eisenhower through Oak Park and a Blue Line extension to Lombard, coupled with a rebuild of Austin, Oak Park, and Harlem on the Blue Line (the CTA tracks would need to be moved, requiring new stations to be built).

I am NOT in favor of widening the Kennedy from O'Hare to the junction, although it would definitely benefit from a reconstruction project to replace overpasses and rebuild interchanges. Hopefully, this could be done in conjunction with the addition of express tracks on the Blue Line for the airport service.

the urban politician Oct 5, 2008 11:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by whyhuhwhy (Post 3840869)
I believe suburbs need hospitals no?



The 2nd lowest highway lane per capita in the country with a weekday average inbound of 90 minutes from O'Hare to downtown with a transit option in place during rush hour shows inadequacy.



I'm not sure if moving all the jobs to downtown is an answer. Not every employer is the size of and has the income of BP or United Airlines!

^ Ahh, you're also in health care. I share the unfortunate circumstance of likely having to work in a far suburban/exurban hospital since urban/inner suburban Chicago hospitals pay SHIT. Regarding the above bolded quote, downtown Chicago has plenty of older class C space that smaller companies can afford. Not every company needs a trophy tower, you know, and in fact the vast majority of them are companies you and I never heard of.

In regards to your other post, obviously you've thought this through. The fact of the matter is, how much can we build ourselves out of congestion? New or widened highways cost a LOT of money. So no, I don't agree with you that building more expensive highways is the answer. At a larger, national level, emphasis must be put on making better use of the infrastructure we already have in place if, for no other reason, we simply can't afford to build more. Where is the money going to come from to maintain it all? Look at the state of the economy as it is today--how are we even going to maintain what we already have?

If anything, I'm glad that congestion is such a problem in America today. It takes this exact stretching of our infrastructure to force a change in policy. Yes, I do believe that more incentives should be put in place to get companies of all sizes to move downtown, which is clearly served by some of the best transportation infrastructure in the nation.

whyhuhwhy Oct 6, 2008 12:32 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 3840974)
^ Ahh, you're also in health care. I share the unfortunate circumstance of likely having to work in a far suburban/exurban hospital since urban/inner suburban Chicago hospitals pay SHIT. Regarding the above bolded quote, downtown Chicago has plenty of older class C space that smaller companies can afford. Not every company needs a trophy tower, you know, and in fact the vast majority of them are companies you and I never heard of.

In regards to your other post, obviously you've thought this through. The fact of the matter is, how much can we build ourselves out of congestion? New or widened highways cost a LOT of money. So no, I don't agree with you that building more expensive highways is the answer. At a larger, national level, emphasis must be put on making better use of the infrastructure we already have in place if, for no other reason, we simply can't afford to build more. Where is the money going to come from to maintain it all? Look at the state of the economy as it is today--how are we even going to maintain what we already have?

If anything, I'm glad that congestion is such a problem in America today. It takes this exact stretching of our infrastructure to force a change in policy. Yes, I do believe that more incentives should be put in place to get companies of all sizes to move downtown, which is clearly served by some of the best transportation infrastructure in the nation.

Good post.

It's not really that I want to "build my way out of congestion" it's just that I would like to see local people and politicians at least discussing solutions to some of our very real bottlenecks that we have inherited, partly due to poor planning, partly due to underfunding. Whatever the reason is, we have them, and relieving choke points doesn't NECESSARILY mean you want to eliminate the CTA, lol, it's kind of a knee jerk reaction I see with some people on this forum (not saying that's what you did). But to answer your question I believe any new funding can come from toll sources. If you use it you should pay for it. I remember last year, even with all the tollway construction, the Illinois tollway system ran a $600 million dollar surplus!

Anyways it is amazing to watch almost all of the exurban tollway system go through a massive expansion at the moment yet we aren't even discussing getting something as important as the Edens/Kennedy junction flowing correctly so that people can actually choose to live downtown if their job is in the suburbs. It is not a good thing for anyone in the city if it takes someone an hour and half to get to downtown from outside of it on a Friday afternoon for instance. That's not helping anyone nor our city. I shudder to think what a Friday afternoon inbound will look like during the Olympics if the express lanes are in their current configuration. I don't even want to imagine it.

the urban politician Oct 6, 2008 12:55 AM

^ But there are other options to get downtown. Metra, for example. And yes, with the CTA fixing its slow zones, that will certainly once again be a better option soon. And didn't the Kennedy just add a lane during its recent reconstruction, or am a mistaken?

whyhuhwhy Oct 6, 2008 1:18 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 3841086)
^ But there are other options to get downtown. Metra, for example. And yes, with the CTA fixing its slow zones, that will certainly once again be a better option soon. And didn't the Kennedy just add a lane during its recent reconstruction, or am a mistaken?

I knew you would say that, but Metra is only good for a very specific need and that is for suburban commuters to specifically the Loop area. For reverse commute you not only have to live near the Loop or near a Metra station that is specifically on the line that you are using, but you also must have your work be near a suburban Metra station which is very rare. Metra is totally impracticable for where we live (Lakeview) unless I want to spend four hours of every day commuting all while having my car parked out in the suburbs at a Metra station. Not everyone "going into the city" is going to the Loop, otherwise highway exits like Armitage and Fullerton and Daman and everywhere else on the north side wouldn't be the complete clusterfuck that they are, pardon my french.

VivaLFuego Oct 6, 2008 4:29 AM

I'll use this opportunity to again pitch tollroads. Properly priced highway tolling could ensure a congestion-free commute for whyhuhwhy. What if the reversible lanes were instead High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes with variable pricing? What if the Tollway system switched to a revenue-maximizing variable pricing system which ensured a smooth flow of traffic? Not everyone on the roads at congested times has to be right there right then, not by a long shot, and the pricing would ensure a broader distribution of trips by time of day, with less congestion and more efficient utilization of existing infrastructure. Commuters stuck in the PM rush gridlock would be shocked and appalled by how many other people on the road could have timed their trip differently, and most of those commuters would gladly pay a toll to reduce their travel time. The difference between a crowded but fast-flowing LOS D and gridlocked LOS F is not very many additional marginal cars on the road.

the urban politician Oct 6, 2008 2:05 PM

:cheers:

Congress' boost to Amtrak fueled by high gas prices, too much traffic
Chicago would be hub of nine-state, high-speed network
Jon Hilkevitch | Getting Around
October 6, 2008

Highway congestion, high fuel prices, dependence on foreign oil, pollution and global warming are creating perfect conditions for reforming stagnant transportation policies.

Is it any wonder that Americans are cutting back on driving and turning to trains in record numbers?

Congress got the message last week that the status quo, including an overreliance on the airline industry, is no longer acceptable for moving people around the state or across the country.

The awakening crystallized when lawmakers passed the Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act by a veto-proof margin.

The landmark legislation, which the White House said President George W. Bush will sign, calls for almost doubling the federal funding provided to Amtrak—about $13.1 billion over five years.

Among other precedents, it authorizes $3.4 billion to create high-speed passenger rail corridors and provide rail capital-improvement grants to states.

The ambitious project proposed for the Midwest would cover 3,000 miles in nine states. All lines would radiate from a hub in downtown Chicago. The cost of a fully completed Midwest network is estimated at almost $8 billion.


"Finally people are waking up to the fact that we need to move people without their cars," said Richard Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, an advocacy group.

Modern, comfortable, double-deck trains with wide seats and large windows would churn along at top speeds of 110 m.p.h. The faster trains would shave hours off trips, delivering passengers from one downtown to another hundreds of miles away.

Amtrak trains in most of the Midwest now operate at up to 79 m.p.h., although average speeds are much slower, especially around Chicago due to freight traffic.

Driving, which results in more than 40,000 fatalities a year, would take a back seat as a transportation choice, proponents say.

So, too, would air travel as consumers factor in the time it takes to go through airport security, the hassle of flying and the time spent traveling from outlying airports.

Travel times of almost 51/2 hours on Amtrak's route between Chicago and St. Louis would be cut to 3 hours and 49 minutes on a high-speed train, according to preliminary estimates.

In the past year, more than 501,000 rides were taken on Amtrak's Lincoln Service route between Chicago and St. Louis, a 284-mile trip, a 15 percent increase over the previous year. Some 1.2 million rides a year would be taken when the route is served by high-speed trains, according projections by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

In addition to the congressional action, the Federal Railroad Administration last week approved grants to Illinois to install train-control and cab-signaling systems on part of the route to facilitate high-speed trains.

A high-speed rail line between Chicago and the Twin Cities could be running within five years, according to U.S. Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee. The roughly eight-hour trip on Amtrak from Chicago to St. Paul would be cut to about 51/2 hours under the working proposal.

Planners envision the line running from Chicago up through Milwaukee, Madison, the Twin Cities and eventually Duluth, while separate routes from Chicago would extend east to Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati.

It's apparent there would be a strong market. Even today, with slow service and a poor on-time performance record, Amtrak finished fiscal 2008 last week with its sixth straight year of ridership growth.

The Midwest Regional Rail Initiative involves Amtrak and the nine states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin.

"A network of states produces much better results than each individual state going its own way," said Randy Wade, passenger rail manager at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, which is coordinating the Midwest initiative.

"We now have a political network, too, comprised of at least 18 U.S. senators," Wade said, adding that high-speed rail projects would stimulate the economy by creating thousands of permanent jobs.

To keep up the momentum, the funding Congress authorized last week must be appropriated annually, and millions more added to the pot to pay for the 80 percent federal share of the high-speed rail projects.

Supporters such as Ross Capon, who heads the National Association of Railroad Passengers, likened the congressional authorization to issuing a "hunting license" to go after big game. While representing a start, it's not the same as bagging a moose.

What is needed to guarantee that the rail program continues to grow is for Congress to establish a rail title in the multiyear federal transportation legislation, Wade said. That would ensure that the passenger rail program benefits from the same steady funding that the highway and mass-transit programs receive, Wade said.

People who have been promoting high-speed rail in the U.S. for decades point to a convergence that cannot be ignored.

"Clearly the world has changed in the last year," Harnish said. "At the start of 2008, we didn't think there was a chance of this legislation moving. Having the runup in gas prices right before the Olympics has really opened up people's eyes. And the problem won't go away."

A 20 percent match by the states would be needed to help pay for the network, which is estimated to cost $7.7 billion, based on 2002 dollar estimates. About $6.6 billion of the total would pay for infrastructure, and $1.1 billion for new trains, officials said.

About 13.6 million passengers would ride the trains each year by 2025, according to ridership projections, and 90 percent of Midwesterners would live within an hour ride of a high-speed rail station.

urbanactivist Oct 6, 2008 2:57 PM

^Yeah, this is great news!!!

whyhuhwhy Oct 6, 2008 3:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 3841408)
I'll use this opportunity to again pitch tollroads. Properly priced highway tolling could ensure a congestion-free commute for whyhuhwhy. What if the reversible lanes were instead High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes with variable pricing? What if the Tollway system switched to a revenue-maximizing variable pricing system which ensured a smooth flow of traffic? Not everyone on the roads at congested times has to be right there right then, not by a long shot, and the pricing would ensure a broader distribution of trips by time of day, with less congestion and more efficient utilization of existing infrastructure. Commuters stuck in the PM rush gridlock would be shocked and appalled by how many other people on the road could have timed their trip differently, and most of those commuters would gladly pay a toll to reduce their travel time. The difference between a crowded but fast-flowing LOS D and gridlocked LOS F is not very many additional marginal cars on the road.


See now that's a good plan and at least a proposed solution. I'm not really sure what solutions are being proposed right now by our local leaders other than more of the same. The nice thing about your plan is that it can theoretically pay for itself.

ardecila Oct 6, 2008 4:50 PM

Politicians have been reluctant to consider HOV/HOT on the Kennedy reversible lanes, although the idea has been pitched several times.

By the way, that Amtrak thing is great news! It definitely paves the way for high-speed rail around the country, but of course it's not exactly a green-light for the Midwest High-Speed Rail Network, merely an appropriation of funds for further studies, and certain improvements along the Chicago-St Louis corridor. Plus, our inept Midwestern state governments can still screw it all up!

VivaLFuego Oct 6, 2008 5:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 3842121)
Politicians have been reluctant to consider HOV/HOT on the Kennedy reversible lanes, although the idea has been pitched several times.

Transportation planners have, rightfully so, pointed out that generally Chicago is not a great place for HOV lanes because they could cannibalize rail ridership, particularly in corridors like the Kennedy which has both a rapid and commuter rail transit running roughly parallel. I-55 is probably the only expressway that makes a viable HOV lane candidate.

I don't recall a serious proposal for HOT though; the technology for continuously variable pricing employed by "open road tolling" has really only been out there in practicable form for the last 5-10 years anyway. HOT lanes, where you're actually charging people rather than simply limiting lane access to buses and carpools as with mere HOV, would change the game, though, in my opinion at least. I agree with whyhuhwhy that the reversible lane concept is probably outmoded, as at this point congestion in the reverse commute direction is generally as bad if not significantly worse than in the standard commute direction. The revenue-maximization potential of HOT lanes would further, in theory, provide additional revenue to support other portions of the transportation system, such as aforementioned arterial/intersection improvements to mitigate some congestion on local streets (Chicago proper could sure use a few more left turn arrows, couldn't it?). There is pretty obvious linkage in expressway drivers benefitting from other travelers taking parallel transit service, so a portion of toll revenue above maintenance/depreciation costs could be diverted to support transit, as in the NYC region.

But now, back to our brutal reality... of course the main reason NYC has it so good was a game of political gamesmanship to reduce the power and influence of Robert Moses rather than some sort of love for economically-sound transportation planning principles on the part of Rockefeller who made it happen. And given the political orientation of Illinois and the Chicago area, I just don't see any sort of regional effort to raise tolls to support mass transit. Depending on federal policy, however, it does seem conceivable that in our lifetimes I-90/94 could be tolled within city limits to support transit (e.g. the federal policy allowing for privatization of assets), but that would never happen due to any state-level action.

NoSmallPlanner Oct 6, 2008 5:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 3840840)
The blue thing is a piece of rubber that isolates the rail from the tie, to reduce vibrations and noise. :tup:

You beat me to it! :D

Continuing on with ardecila's explanation - the blue 'shim' not only reduces noise/vibration but also wear between the rail and the tie. It operates in much the same way as the NVH (Noise-Vibration-Harshness) isolation mounts on automobile engines.

Smoother and quieter is better - not just for our ears but for the components of the track itself.

As to high-speed rail - I'm all for it, having admired the trains in Europe personally (and those in Japan from afar.) However, wouldn't it be very, very expensive to implement given the size of the routes travelled and the need to isolate (for obvious safety reasons) tracks on which trains traveling upwards of 100 mph from cars, people and large animals (livestock)? In Europe and Japan sacrifices (high taxes, attitudes about the 'right' to drive *anywhere*) have been made to accomodate bullet trains and other high-speed rail - will Americans be willing to do the same? Maybe so - if gas prices continue to spiral upwards - at least I hope so.

I hope this all comes about. Traveling by train can be a quite pleasant experience as compared to the hell economy-class jet travel already is and the financial burden long-distance driving is now becoming.

NSP

honte Oct 6, 2008 6:47 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 3842121)
By the way, that Amtrak thing is great news! It definitely paves the way for high-speed rail around the country, but of course it's not exactly a green-light for the Midwest High-Speed Rail Network, merely an appropriation of funds for further studies, and certain improvements along the Chicago-St Louis corridor. Plus, our inept Midwestern state governments can still screw it all up!

You're right, but I can't believe there is anything exciting happening in this "thread of depression and angst."

VivaLFuego Oct 6, 2008 8:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by NoSmallPlanner (Post 3842214)
As to high-speed rail - I'm all for it, having admired the trains in Europe personally (and those in Japan from afar.) However, wouldn't it be very, very expensive to implement given the size of the routes travelled and the need to isolate (for obvious safety reasons) tracks on which trains traveling upwards of 100 mph from cars, people and large animals (livestock)? In Europe and Japan sacrifices (high taxes, attitudes about the 'right' to drive *anywhere*) have been made to accomodate bullet trains and other high-speed rail - will Americans be willing to do the same? Maybe so - if gas prices continue to spiral upwards - at least I hope so.

I hope this all comes about. Traveling by train can be a quite pleasant experience as compared to the hell economy-class jet travel already is and the financial burden long-distance driving is now becoming.

NSP

In our context, "high-speed rail" means 110mph which is a pretty far cry in terms of geometry and grade separation from the bullet trains / TGV / etc. of Europe and Asia. 110mph can be substantially achieved along existing corridors with upgrades to track components, installation of improved signaling systems, and targeted construction projects to ease the geometry of curves and install sidings to allow trains to pass each other.

Frankly, a reliable system that reached 110mph for much of it's length would be such a vast improvement over the status quo that I'll still jump for joy to see real progress on this front. As part of the deal, let's get Amtrak to integrate ticketing with travel booking services and arrange for car rental and secure long term parking at various termini. These aren't major issues in downtown Chicago, but it doesn't do me much good to be dropped off at Michigan Central or New Center in Detroit without a car. Some of the suburban Amtrak stations (e.g. Glenview, Naperville), once Amtrak is a credible form of intercity transport, would be well-served by long-term parking facilities.

ardecila Oct 6, 2008 10:04 PM

Yes, New Center in Detroit and the St. Louis Amtrak station are really uncomfortable places...

Milwaukee recently rebuilt their downtown station. While it's still small, it's now modern, bright, and comfortable.


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