Like many American cities, Sarasota is installing many new roundabouts. 

More photos of Roundabouts

The Federal Highway Administration designated roundabouts as one of nine proven safety counter measures. Roundabouts provide a number of benefits as described below:


  • Fewer crashes, 90% fewer fatalities and 75% fewer injuries

  • Fewer severe crashes

  • 10 to 40% fewer pedestrian/bicycle crashes

  • Roundabouts are safer for beginner and elderly drivers

  • Can be used in multiple road intersections

Time Savings

  • 30 to 50% increase in traffic capacity for intersection, less delay waiting at stops and signals

Environmentally Friendly

  • Reduces pollution (from cars not waiting at traffic signals), reduces noise, reduces fuel consumption

  • Roundabout islands can be landscaped with native plants and trees

  • Roundabouts generally take less land than traditional intersections as they don't require turning lanes

Saves Money

  • Without traffic signals, no cost for traffic signals and yearly maintenance

  • Intersection still operates in power outages, no need for police to direct traffic

  • Roundabouts can help  improve sales at nearby businesses across the country as more people can walk or easily drive to locations compared to traditional intersections

  • Can act as a marker to a business or downtown district

Where the Buffalo Roam – Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Videos of Bison at Midewin

In 1993 23,500 acres of land in Will County south of Joliet Illinois was declared to be excess. The old Joliet Arsenal had produced ammunition and explosives for WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.

Redevelopment plans included 3,000 acres for two industrial parks, 455 acres for the Will County Landfill, 982 acres for the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, and 19,000 acres for the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. I was the Planning Director of Will County and worked on the plan for redevelopment. 

The old ammunition bunkers and surrounding land were heavily contaminated by chemicals from ammunition manufacture. One of the solutions for the contaminants was to spread molasses on the contaminated area.  Bacteria would consume the molasses and contaminates, rendering them safe. The old ammunition bunkers would be left in place, although some have now been removed.

The conversion of the majority of the site to permanent open space was a great deal for the Chicago metropolitan area. And the bison are a nice addition.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

The Midewn National Tallgrass Prairie was created from the Joliet Arsenal. I worked on this project as the Will County Planning Director. It was a great redevelopment of the site.

Interesting video by Bill Curtis about Midewin and prairie restoration.

Another video about the restoration process.

And the landfill solved a critical problem for the area.  It was an interesting negotiation with landfill companies on the landfill, with the County Board selecting the firm. I won't say any more about that.

The Veterans cemetery was in a beautiful place.  Some nice sculptures were created there. 

And industrial redevelopment created many jobs. 

So I joked that I got to work and plan the conversion, including the major open space, the industrial park, the landfill, and the place where I would be buried.

At one point I interviewed to be head of the industrial park conversion. I talked to some of the Board of Mayors who would hire the person and they assured me they did not have a political candidate. So I did quite a lot of preparation - created maps and a plan for creating and marketing the major industrial park.

My interview consisted of nine minutes with no questions from the mayors. They seemed a bit embarrassed. It was obvious to me that a political deal had been made for the job. I thanked the Mayors for their time and gave them the redevelopment plan and maps that I created and told them they could use the material.

The next day I found out that the Mayors had been informed from the State the day before the interview that they could hire anyone they wanted, but if they wanted the millions set aside for the redevelopment they had better hire the person the State wanted.  Oh, well.      

Joliet Army Ammunition Plant

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Proposed redevelopment of Joliet Arsenal, February 2002. Drawn with North at the top, the arsenal was bisected by Illinois Route 53 with Kankakee Ordnance Works in the west portion and Elwood Ordnance Plant on the east.

Joliet Army Ammunition Plant (JOAAP, formerly known as the Joliet Arsenal) was a United States Army arsenal located in Will County, Illinois, near Elwood, Illinois, south of Joliet, Illinois. Opened in 1940 during World War II, the facility consisted of the Elwood Ordnance Plant (EOP) and the Kankakee Ordnance Works (KNK). In 1945, the two were deactivated and combined forming the Joliet Arsenal. The plant was reactivated for the Korean War and renamed Joliet Army Ammunition Plant during the Vietnam War. Production of TNT ended in 1976, and the major plant operations closed shortly after in the late 1970s. The facility briefly revived an automated load-assemble-pack (LAP) artillery shell operation that was managed by the Honeywell Corporation during the Reagan administration in the 1980s before it was finally closed.[citation needed]

Portions of the site have been redeveloped forming the CenterPoint Intermodal CenterAbraham Lincoln National Cemetery and Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.

Pre-World War II[edit]

Before the Second World War, the land in Jackson Township, Will County, Illinois, where the Joliet Arsenal was built consisted mostly of small family farms some of which were owned and managed by descendants of pioneer Illinois settlers. The federal government acquired some of the land in Jackson Township to build the Joliet Arsenal through eminent domain.[1] Prior to the plant's construction, there were 450 farms that had to be vacated by March 1, 1941. Initially there was some resistance from local farmers relating to prices and moving problems, but 90% of the land was paid for through negotiated settlements. The entire land acquisition cost the government $5 million for the 40,000-acre (160 km2) project.[2] Ten preexisting farmhouses were moved from their original locations and used as staff housing. Six cemeteries were also on the property and they were maintained in place by the operating contractor.[3]

World War II[edit]

Joliet Army Ammunition Plant is located in Illinois
Joliet Army Ammunition Plant
Location in Illinois

The United States had very little capacity for manufacturing military munitions in 1939 when World War II broke out. Since the manufacture of munitions required specialized equipment and techniques there were no existing plants that could be converted. The solution to the lack of capacity was to create a large network of interlocking ammunition plants. They would be government-owned, but contractor-operated (GOCO). More than 60 plants would be constructed between June 1940 and December 1942.[3]

The Elwood Ordnance Plant, named for Elwood, Illinois, and the Kankakee Ordnance Works, named for the Kankakee River, were two of the first five to be constructed. In September 1940, Stone and Webster Engineering of New York was awarded the contract to construct the Kankakee Ordnance Works. Another New York firm, Sanderson and Porter, received the contract for the Elwood Ordnance Plant soon after. Construction on both plants began November 1940, with Elwood beginning production July 12, 1941, followed by Kankakee in September. The plants were separate since they had different purposes, Kankakee manufactured various types of explosives for use at other plants and Elwood loaded artillery shells, bombs, mines and other munitions.[3]

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, an experienced explosives manufacturer, was selected to operate the Kankakee plant while Sanderson and Porter would operate the Elwood facility. In April 1944, United States Rubber Company would replace DuPont as contractor at the Kankakee facility. TNT production at the Kankakee works occurred until August 1945 with a peak output of 5.5 million short tons (5.0×106 t) per week. In November 1945, Elwood and Kankakee were combined to form the Joliet Arsenal. Following the war the site was not completely inactive, DuPont leased space to manufacture ammonium nitrate for fertilizer.[3] Over 10,425 people were employed at the two plants during the peak production of World War II. Elwood loaded more than 926 million bombs, shells, mines, detonators, fuzes, and boosters, and Kankakee produced over 1 billion pounds (450,000 t) of TNT.[4]

Plant explosion[edit]

Though both plants were designed with safety as a primary concern,[3] at 2:45 a.m. on June 5, 1942, a large explosion on the assembly line at the Elwood facility resulted in 48 dead or missing and was felt as far as Waukegan, Illinois, over 60 miles (97 km) north.[5] Assembly Lines were located in separate buildings which were separated by substantial distances limiting major damage to the facility as a whole.

From a United Press newspaper article written at the time, "Explosion shattered buildings of one of the units of the $30,000,000 Elwood Ordnance plant gave up the bodies of 21 workers Friday. Army officials said 36 more were missing from the blast that could be felt for a radius of 100 miles. Another 41 were injured, five of them critically, from the explosion that leveled a building.... Not one of the 68 men inside the shipping unit when the blast occurred escaped death or injury."

"The explosion put one of the 12 production units out of action temporarily, but operations continued in the others."[6]

Korean War[edit]

Production resumed in 1952 after rehabilitation of the facility by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The Kankakee portion was used to manufacture TNT under the control of contractor United States Rubber Company while Elwood operated under U.S. government control. Following the Korean war, Elwood would continue production in a limited capacity until deactivated in 1965.[3] Kankakee production would end in 1957.[4]

Vietnam War[edit]

The Elwood unit was reopened in 1966 and would produce artillery rounds, supplementary charge assemblies and cluster bomb units. The Kankakee unit was reopened in 1965 and would manufacture TNT until 1976.[3] During the Vietnam War the Joliet Arsenal was renamed Joliet Army Ammunition Plant. The majority of operations at the facility were terminated by the late 1970s.[4]


In 1993, 23,500 acres (95 km2) of land was declared to be excess.[4] Remediation of the site occurred prior to the redevelopment.[7][8][9] Redevelopment plans included around 3,000 acres (12 km2) for two industrial parks, 455 acres (1.8 km2) for the Will County Landfill, 982 acres (4.0 km2) for the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, and 19,000 acres (77 km2) for the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. The government retained a portion as the Joliet Army Training Area.[4] The industrial parks are composed of the largest inland intermodal center in the country, CenterPoint Intermodal Center which is served by the Union Pacific Railroad and the BNSF Railway.[10] and a 3,400,000-square-foot (320,000 m2Walmart distribution facility.[11] along with several other prominent U.S. companies distribution warehouses.

Environmental issues[edit]

The EPA maintains portions of the property on the Superfund National Priorities List. Cleanup includes composting by the Army Corps of Engineers. The cemetery and industrial parks were on the buffer portion of the facility, and there was little or no cleanup required. However, portions of the site that became Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie were heavily contaminated.[12] Some of the clean-up included disposing of live explosive cartridges and shells using controlled explosions. The explosives to be cleaned up were buried by the army in unknown years. The residents of surrounding small towns could hear the controlled explosions being used in the disposal activity from 2–3 miles away.

In early 2008, site cleanup was finished three years ahead of schedule, while groundwater monitoring remains ongoing. Part of the prairie restoration at Midewin includes introducing American bison to graze on an experimental basis on approximately 1,200 acres of fenced pasture located within the Prairie’s 19,000 total acres. In October 2015, the U.S. Forest Service announced the arrival of 27 American bison to the prairie.[13]

Manatee County, Florida - World's Largest Battery


Manatee County will soon be home to the world's largest battery when Florida Power & Light completes the project by the end of the year. The $300 million battery sits on about 40 acres in Parrish and will have a capacity of about 409 Megawatts — the same as every iPhone in the U.S. combined, all 100 million of them.

Solar Home in Seattle

Solar panels on the roof of a home in Seattle.  The panels supply power for the home and to charge two electric venicles.

The Pad shows power usage.  The green curves are when the home is producing more power than it consumes and is sold to the electric utility.  The red is typically at night when the home is consuming power from the grid.

Steve Kuo describes the system he built.

Solar and Wind Power on Steve Kuo's Home

Happy to help and answer any EV or PV questions I can.  I have a friend coming over to do some drone shots of the house and possible video too.

On to solar. We have installed solar on my home in Washington State.  We have a 10.4 kW array that consists of 32 panels.  They are I think they are all 285W panels, but some could be 280W.  We had two separate installs, a month apart - Dec and Jan, due to local PUD incentives at the time.  They are installed south facing and flat on our 4:12 pitch roof that has no solar obstructions.  Pretty much optimal placement and coverage for our latitude. Those 32 panels produce, roughly, 10.2-10.6MW per year for us.  

When we did our electric use analysis, based on our previous 3 years electric bills, we came up with us using about 10.8 MW per year.  We opted to target 10MW/year production for a couple of reasons. 

1.     We thought that we'd be able to trim our electrical usage down a little (maybe by eliminating our electric water heater and converting to gas)

2.     At the time the state incentives capped out at 10MW.  We could have added more panels, but we don't use more and the ROI for any beyond 10MW is 15-25 years, not single digits.  

We are not off the grid, have no direct use and no batteries for a number of reasons. 

1.     Direct feed to the house means that you have to install some separate hardware between your house, panels, and grid with some smart switching inside that hardware, thus an increased cost for the installs. 

2.     Any conversion of energy into any other form like a battery incurs the wrath and penalty of the Second Law of Thermodynamics which is about 15-20%. 

3.     In order for us to have received the full benefit of the local solar incentives at the time, which were quite substantial, we needed to give energy to the grid, not just cut our home usage.  Electricity costs us $0.11/kW and the PUD if we bought state manufactured panels and inverters would pay us $0.54/kW.  So if we used the energy from our panels and only pushed to the grid what we didn't use we'd only be making $0.11/kW (for the energy we used) instead of producing to the grid at $0.54 and then turning right around and sucking from the grid at $0.11.  Our state incentive programs pay us $5,000/year on top of our electric bill dropping from $125/month to $15 for line maintenance fees.  If that makes sense at all.  

Batteries.  I'm so conflicted on batteries it hurts.  We don't have them, but I want them.  I can't, however, justify them enough to convince my frugality to do them.  We considered batteries for 2.5 reasons:

1.     Off the grid:  We considered getting off the grid, but for the reasons mentioned above, we didn't want to do that at the time.  Now that state incentives are coming to an end, I'm re-considering it, but am torn and asking myself am I doing it just to be tech geeky or when the big one/zombie apocalypse/WWIII comes do I have enough guns and ammo in the house to defend my beacon lights and hot water of comfort from the masses.  Would I want to...I'd be the person that opens up the house to everyone and then some conservative with a big truck and more guns then me would just take it.  

2.     Power Backup: For the vast majority of electricity outages we have are winter storm-related in Seattle.  Winter is our area's worst time of the year for even seeing the sun.  The whole northern latitude winter sunlight hours are at their worst.  There's also the fact that our power went out because of a severe winter storm, so ya storm + winter = clouds + clouds + clouds + rain + clouds + wind + clouds + clowns.  Also, with one exception, we've never lost power in this house for more than 5 minutes ever, going back to the whole time Doug and Cheryl owned it.  Aside from a natural disaster (earthquake and volcano) happening in the summer months, power backup won't help us.  We don't have variable power pricing either, so our time of use doesn't affect our billing.  
When looking at power backup we looked at a comparison between Solar + Batteries, gas/propane generator and using our one (now two) electric vehicles as battery sources to run our hose.  A good quiet generator to run our refrigerator and freezer would cost us roughly $1,000-2,500 depending on noise and quality, batteries $15,000-30,000 and a Auto->Home inverter $500-1,500.  Battery on wheels…I already own two, easy choice.

3.     The other half...the benefit if we did get batteries, we would be off the grid, it provides that switch so we can use the power we generate and we could use.  Adding batteries gives that smart switch that I talked about earlier...but at a cost of 15-20% from entropy.

Overall our cost in 2013 was $40,000 for our system, with a 33% federal tax rebate, state incentives (one time and production) we paid off our system in 3.5 years.  A friend got the same array installed with the same company's panels and inverters (but the newer ones, 24 total panels) for $28,000 in 2015.  

Our panels are awesome and everyone should have them.  They power our now TWO cars and our complete house, except for heating.  

What else do you want to know?  I have friends in the industry and can get you help.  You can get solar path analysis for free in most cases with an assessment.  Want me to check on local installers?



Very interesting, Steve. It is amazing how far small system solar and wind clean energy have come.

My mother's twin brother, Luverne Liffengren, lived south of Draper, South Dakota on a ranch that was off the grid, not by choice. This was in the 1930's up to about 1960.  They had an old wind charger that used to provide power but no longer worked well.  Luverne generated his power with a very loud old car engine.  He stored power in car batteries that filled the top floor of his old garage.  The power system was 32 volts, I think, though I am not sure - he got rid of the system when I was about 12 in 1960+-, when they extended commercial power to the ranch.

I think the power was used for lights, to pump water, fans, drills, and not sure what else. The appliances all had to be low voltage.

They used an outhouse, and propane for heating. Wish I had some pictures. 


Craig Hullinger

Missle Defense of Chicago


An interesting paper about missile defense of Chicago during the Cold War. Thinking the unthinkable.

We visited a Nike Site while in Cub Scouts. I have no idea which one.

I served in a Marine unit for one year that shot similar but smaller HAWK (Homing All The Way Killer) Missiles, defending from low flying attack aircraft. We were successful - Yuma, Arizona was never attacked while I was there.  The Hawks were used during the first few years of the Vietnam War and Israel used them effectively during their wars. 

It is not so easy to hit a fast jet aircraft. A good thing the bad guys never launched.

Libertyville, Illinois Nike Site

MWCS-48 (Marine Wing Communications Squadron) used to go there for weekend drills.  An excellent little base that was a ruin when we trained there in the 70's and 80's.  There were a number of buildings which the Seabees tore down, and left quite a mess.  And there were underground bunkers where I troops would shelter from rain or from hiding out from the Officers and Staff NCO's.

Our Huey helicopters would fly up from our base at the Glenview, Illinois Navy Air Station and give our troops a helo ride. Always a popular thing to do.

We also conducted small unit training at night.  We sent out a small platoon led by Gunner Walt Kidden (Rest in Peace, flew in Marine torpedo bombers in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters).  His assignment was to ambush other units.  Then our Commander sent out another patrol with the mission to ambush Walt.

Walt took his troops to the underground bunker and sheltered from heavy rain.  They then went out in the rain and fog to accomplish their mission.

Walt lost his men. I came across Walt while I was leading another patrol.  Walt came out of the mist, saying "I lost my f___ing men!"

No big deal, I told Walt. Come with us.  "No" he yelled. I am going to find my men."  And off he went into the mist.

They closed the Libertyville site many years ago, and have not closed the Glenview Navy Air Station.  The Helo Squadron was disbanded and MWCS-48 moved first to Fort Sheridan and the Great Lakes Navy Base.  Leaving us with fond memories.


Like many American cities, Sarasota is installing many new roundabouts.  More photos of Roundabouts