Announcing the Africa News Innovation Challenge winners

Digital tools are an increasing impetus for innovation across African newsrooms. From crowdsourcing content to using infographics to tell stories, journalists are finding new ways to report the news. We're excited to be supporting these innovators through the $1 million Africa News Innovation Challenge, announced in May this year—the latest in a series of projects to spur innovation in African journalism.

Run by the the African Media Initiative, other partners include Omidyar Network, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the U.S. State Department, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). The response to the challenge was really enthusiastic, with more than 500 proposals submitted.

The 20 winners are all exciting digital journalism projects that will contribute to solving some of the biggest challenges facing the African media industry. They range from mobile apps to mobilise citizens against corruption and improved infographics to communicate complex issues, to developing new platforms for sharing content on buses and taxis. Key themes among the projects include a growing concern about manipulated online content, the security of communications with whistleblowers and sources, and the need to improve engagement with audiences.

The projects have the potential to be replicated by media elsewhere in Africa, or to be scaled up across the continent, to create wide and sustained impact. Some projects will also develop new tools to support newsrooms and boost media revenues to support sustainable journalism. Winners will receive cash grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000; technology support from a team of four developers at AMI’s jAccelerator lab in Kenya, and business development support from top media strategists affiliated with the World Association of Newspapers & News Publishers. Ten of the winners will also be flown to the Knight Foundation’s annual M.I.T. Civic Media Conference in the U.S., while the rest will be showcased at other important industry events.

The ANIC winners are:
  • actNOW (Ghana)
  • AdBooker (South Africa)
  • Africa Check (South Africa / Nigeria)
  • skyCAM (Kenya / Nigeria)
  • Africa’s Wealth (renamed NewsStack) (Nigeria / Namibia)
  • Citizen Desk (Mozambique)
  • Code4Ghana (Ghana)
  • ConvergeCMS (Kenya / Tanzania / Uganda)
  • CorruptionNET (South Africa)
  • DataWrapper (Nigeria / Senegal / Tanzania)
  • End-to-End (renamed LastMile Crowdmapping) (Liberia / Ghana / Kenya)
  • FlashCast (Kenya)
  • Green Hornet (South Africa)
  • ListeningPost (South Africa)
  • MoJo: Keeping media honest by monitoring online journalism (South Africa)
  • openAFRICA (Kenya / Nigeria / Rwanda / South Africa)
  • ODADI (renamed Code4SouthAfrica) (South Africa)
  • Oxpeckers (South Africa)
  • Wikipedia Zero (Cameroon / Ivory Coast / Tunisia / Uganda)
  • ZeroNews (pan-African)

You can learn more about the winners’ projects on the ANIC website.

We can’t wait to see how these innovations unfold and we look forward to working with more African journalists to help them use technologies to tell important stories.

(Cross-posted from the Africa Blog)

Meet Google’s Top Contributors, a community of help

If you’ve ever asked a question in the Google Help Forums, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve met a Google Top Contributor. Last September, we told you a little bit about the Top Contributors when we hosted our 2011 Top Contributor Summit. Since then, Top Contributors continue to help millions of people get the most out of Google’s products by answering questions in Google’s Help Forums.

They also continue to give important feedback to Google. Top Contributors have advocated for features and improvements like custom colors in Google Calendar, more locations for offline Google Maps on Android devices, and protected ranges in Google Sheets. In short, they help Google build better products.

Starting today, you can find out more about Top Contributors on our new website for the program. You can learn about Google Help Forums, meet a few of the Top Contributors, and get a better understanding of what these incredible folks do to impact people’s lives in the forums every day.

We hope that the website brings the world of Google Help Forums to light and shows our thanks for the dedication Top Contributors show each day. To meet a Top Contributor or get some help, just stop by a forum and say hello. And let us know if you want more information on joining the Top Contributor Program!

VetNet: A place for veterans and military spouses to build civilian careers

For several years now, we’ve been working to help the veteran community through outreach programs and by connecting veterans and their families to useful Google products and services. For example, we’ve built tools like the Veterans Job Bank to connect veterans with employers, today populated with more than a million jobs. And we created a Resume Builder to help job-seekers represent their experience in just a few clicks with Google Docs.

After years of working with the community, we’ve come to realize that it isn’t more tools that are needed, but rather organizing the ones that already exist, and making them easier to find. Perhaps the most complex challenge facing the veteran community today is the sheer volume of resources available to help them transition to civilian life. While this abundance is the measure of a grateful nation, and a tribute to those who served, in the end, the most important result is individuals and families getting the help they need.

With this in mind, we’ve put the powers of Google+ behind a single hub called VetNet. Today, VetNet launches as a partnership with three founding organizations: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and Hire Heroes USA. In the long run, other organizations will be able to offer their services to the veteran community, all in the same easy-to-use place.

Through VetNet, these founding partners offer a full spectrum of employment resources for members of the community. Whether starting a job search from scratch, looking for mentors in a specific industry or starting a business, transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses will be able to connect with career services, job opportunities and each other.

All of the content and resources are organized into three tracks by objective, each hosted on its own Google+ page.

To stay abreast of the most exciting events happening across all tracks, follow +VetNetHQ on Google+.

We’re proud to join forces with the Chamber, IVMF and Hire Heroes USA—to help them do what they do so well, and to simplify the process of finding and using resources for the veterans community. Our hope is simply to connect help to those who need it. If you’re a member of the community looking any career advice or help, get started at For those of us who have not served, please do what you can to spread word of VetNet to those who have.

Get ready for winter: Mapping the Canadian Arctic and global ski resorts

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, the days are getting shorter and the temperatures are dropping. To help prepare for the winter ahead, we’re adding more detail and imagery to the map for a variety of chilly destinations, making them more comprehensive and accurate than ever. Starting today, you can virtually experience the Canadian Arctic through new panoramic Street View images of Cambridge Bay and detailed maps created with the help of local community members. And if you’re planning a winter getaway, you can preview the slopes of more than 90 ski and snow resorts around the world, adding to dozens that are already available via Street View today.

Canada’s Arctic
When we visited Canada’s far north this past August, we worked with the nonprofit group Nunavut Tunngavik and the residents of Cambridge Bay to improve the map of this remote, but culturally rich, Nunavut hamlet. The map this community helped build using Google Map Maker, as well as the 360-degree images we collected using Street View trike and tripod technologies, is now available for all the world to see on Google Maps.

To get a sense of what it’s like to live up in the north, you can walk down Omingmak Street, make your way to the bridge (where locals fish for Arctic Char) and head out to the Old Stone Church. Check out some Arctic souvenirs in the Arctic Closet, or visit the Ice Hockey and Curling Arena—it’s uninsulated and freezes over once they flood it in the winter! You can also learn more about Inuit history and culture at the Kitikmeot Heritage Society and the Arctic Coast Visitors Centre.

Explore the intersection of Omingmak (“musk ox”) Street and Tigiganiak (“fox”) Road

Ski and snow resorts across the globe
You can also view some of the world’s best runs right on Google Maps before you get there. Whether you’re looking to discover a piste you’ve never tried before, or just want to take in some winter wonderland scenery, we’ve added Street View imagery for resorts across Europe (including runs in Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Italy and Spain), Canada (including runs in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario) and the U.S. (including runs in Utah and Michigan).

For example, take a look at Sölden, a popular ski resort in the Ötztal valley of Tyrol, Austria. It’s not just tourists who flock there every year, but fans of professional skiing—Sölden regularly hosts the giant slalom competition as part of the Alpine World Cup in late October.

You can also visit Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah. With 19 chairlifts, 4,000 acres of skiable terrain and an average of 355 inches of snow each winter, Canyons is the largest ski and snowboard terrain park in the state.

Visit the to see some of our favorite images of the Arctic and resorts available on Google Maps. As winter sets in, we encourage you to experience it all from the comfort (and warmth) of your couch—or check it out online, then dig out your thermal underwear and snow boots to hit the slopes!

Join the Arabic Web Days movement

Arabic content on the web represents just 3 percent of the total digital content online—yet Arabic speakers make up more than 5 percent of the global population. To help build a vibrant Arabic web, we’ve created Arabic Web Days, an initiative in the Middle East and North Africa focused on boosting the amount of Arabic content online. (Note: the video below is in Arabic only.)

For the next 30 days, we’re holding a series of online and offline events along with our partners Vinelab, Wamda, Yamli and Taghreedat, as well as Twitter, Wikipedia, TED, Soundcloud, and regional organizations Al Arabiya, TwoFour54 and Qatar Foundation’s Qatari Computing Research Institute. Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Participate in a series of Hangouts on Google+ to get tips and tricks from industry experts on contributing Arabic content to the web—through online journalism, YouTube videos, Wikipedia editing, translation of English content, SEO and more
  • Join the YouTube Tweet Up in Doha, Qatar on December 15 to learn how to create viral Arabic videos and make money through YouTube
  • Participate in the region's first Arabic infographics competition with Tajseed
  • Volunteer to be part of a TED initiative to create quality Arabic digital content via Arabic subtitling during a kick-off event with TED, twofour54 and Taghreedat in Abu Dhabi on December 4
  • Sign up for developer training at g|days in Jordan on December 5-6 and Egypt on December 9-10 to learn about Arabic localization, webmaster tools, SEO and YouTube for Business
  • Learn about the Egyptian Ministry of Education’s educational channels on YouTube which include different curricula from first to twelfth grade, as well as e-Lessons via video and Google+ Hangouts.
  • Celebrate 12/12/12 as National Arabic Web Day
  • Connect with us: add the Arabic Web Days badge to your site, upload a video to, visit our website: and follow us on Google+ and Twitter (in Arabic)
To get more details and to sign up for any of the above events, visit Arabic Web Days on Google+ or see the Arabia Blog. Until then, let’s go Arabic!

Discover the world of open source with Google Code-in 2012

Every time you send a text, check a webpage or post a status update, you’re using open source software. The Internet is made of open source. But have you ever created any yourself? With the Google Code-in contest, pre-university students (13-17 years old) can learn more and create open source software that people all over the world can use—and win cool prizes along the way.

Starting Monday, November 26 and for the following 50 days, contest participants will work on fun online tasks for 10 different open source organizations. Possible challenges include documentation, marketing outreach, software coding, user experience research and more.

Participants earn points for each task they successfully complete and can earn prizes like T-shirts and certificates of completion. This year we’re doubling the number of grand prize winners to 20 talented students, who will win a trip to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. They’ll spend a day getting a tour of the “Googleplex,” meeting and talking with Google engineers, plus enjoy another full day exploring San Francisco and other surprises.

Some of the 2011 Google Code-in Grand Prize Winners by the Golden Gate Bridge

Last year, 542 students from 56 countries and 360 schools completed 3,054 tasks during the eight-week contest. This year we want to encourage even more students to participate in the contest and learn about open source development. If you’d like to sign up, please review our Frequently Asked Questions and the contest rules on our program site. You can also watch our screencast, check out some sample tasks from last year’s contest and join our discussion list for any other questions. For details on important dates for the contest, see the timeline. You can register for your account on the program site when the contest opens on Monday, November 26 at 9:00am PST.

Finally, our Open Source Programs team will be hosting a Hangout on Air on the Google in Education page November 26 at 2:00pm PST to discuss the details of the Google Code-in contest and answer any questions.

We hope you’ll spend your winter (or summer, for our friends in the southern hemisphere) learning about the ins and outs of open source development through hands-on experience. Ready...set...

Something to smile about: A 5,000-mile walk across Asia, guided by Google Maps

Inspiration comes in many shapes and forms. For U.S. Marine Sgt. Winston Fiore, it was a news article about the International Children’s Surgical Foundation (ICSF) and Dr. Geoff Williams, who provides free facial-reconstructive surgeries for children with cleft lips/palates in developing countries. Although cleft palates are quite correctable, if left untreated the deformity can cause serious health issues. Many children don’t have the surgery because the cost of each procedure ($250 USD) is out of reach for their families.

Inspired to do something to help, Winston set out on a 5,000-mile trek across Southeast Asia to raise money and awareness for the ICSF—a mission he dubbed Smile Trek. Armed with sturdy boots, a 20-pound vest carrying essentials and an Android phone with Google Maps, Winston set off on his mission in October 2011. In the last year, he has walked (yes, walked!) through Brunei, China, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Along the way he’s met countless individuals who have contributed to his cause, whether it was a place to stay, a hot meal or a monetary donation on his website.

Trekking along: Winston, standing in front of a durian fruit stand near Sematan, the westernmost town of Malaysian Borneo

Out on the road, Winston’s Android phone and Google Maps became “the hub” of his entire operation. He used Google Maps to find accurate and easy-to-use walking directions everywhere he went, whether it was through remote villages and farms, down tiny dirt roads, or across rice paddies and desolate sugar cane fields. “Walking directions in Google Maps were critical to my trek. The directions were accurate and efficient—it’s essential to take the shortest route when you’re walking 20-25 miles each day,” said Winston. “But the best part was being routed onto roads and trails through areas I otherwise never would have discovered with, say, driving directions, or even a physical map.”

View the complete map of Winston's journey on his site

In addition to using Google Maps, Winston relied on many other Google products during his trek. He used Google Latitude to keep his family, friends and supporters informed of his whereabouts, and MyTracks to record his speed, distance and the places he visited. He also used Google Translate to communicate with locals, and in one case found it essential: when bit by a stray dog outside of Bangkok, he typed "I got bit by a dog, can someone take me to a hospital?" into his app. A taxi driver took him to the hospital, where he got 11 shots!

Today, after walking 5,000 miles in 408 days, Sgt. Fiore completes his journey, with more than $65,000 raised for ICSF. The money will help to fund more than 200 life-saving surgeries for children in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world. If you’d like to contribute to the International Children’s Surgery Fund and Winston Fiore’s effort, we encourage you to visit

Supporting people with disabilities through outreach and accessibility tools

Globally, there are approximately 285 million visually impaired people in the world—and each one of those people has networks of family and friends. Increasing the accessibility of products impacts not only the millions of people with disabilities, but also the lives of the people connected to them.

It’s because of the wide impact better accessibility tools can have that we partner with organizations like the Vision Serve Alliance, which brings together the CEOs of U.S. nonprofits that serve the blind and visually impaired to network and share best practices.

On Thursday, November 8 we welcomed 63 of these executives to Google’s San Francisco, Calif. office. There, we showed how we’re making Google’s products more accessible to blind and visually impaired users. We also shared insight into Google's culture—our commitment to openness, transparency and encouraging Googlers to bring their whole selves to work.

The attendees talked with representatives from the Google self-driving car team about the technology’s potential impact on mobility for the blind and visually impaired, as previously demoed by Steve Mahan from the Santa Clara Valley Blind Center. Other teams of Googlers also joined the event to demonstrate accessibility features in products like Chrome and Android. Chromevox is a screen reader that's built into Chrome OS and the Chrome browser. Android’s built-in accessibility features include text-to-speech, haptic feedback, gesture navigation, trackball and directional-pad navigation, all of which help visually impaired users navigate their mobile devices.

In line with our efforts to empower all people with disabilities, on December 3 we’re celebrating the International Day of Disability in Google offices in North America. We’ll have 7-minute flash talks about how Google’s work on accessibility empowers different communities, and a global product accessibility improvement day where Googlers test our products for accessibility bugs.

Thanksgiving gone Google

Thanksgiving is about sharing, giving thanks and connecting with family and friends. Yet, all too often we get caught up in the holiday rat race—the mad dash to the airport, the supermarket, the mall—and forget to take time out to enjoy the holiday.

To kick off the holidays this year, we wanted to crank up the fun and tone down the stress. So we did a little planning for you and created a one-stop-Google-shop to get you through the week.

With tools like recipe search and YouTube cooking videos that show you the right (and wrong) ways to carve a deep-fried turkey, Google can help you master your Thanksgiving meal with lots of laughs along the way. You can also join members of the Google+ cooking community for cooking lessons over live hangouts. Learn how to make new dishes like pumpkin brulee for the sweet tooths at the table or mix things up this year with a vegan-friendly feast.

Though we can’t control the skies and guarantee a turbulence-free flight home, we can help minimize the time you spend waiting around, with real-time flight updates. Download the Google Search App to get flight updates on the go. And don’t forget to download TV shows, music and more from Google Play to stay entertained on board.

Of course, for those of you who couldn’t make it home this year, you can still get everyone together with Google+ Hangouts. Try scheduling a hangout to video chat with up to nine people you’d otherwise miss this holiday.

Whether you’re rooting for the Cowboys or the Jets, Texans or the Patriots, we can help you stay on top of all the scores and stats. If you’re on the run, ask for real time scores or game details using Voice Search on the Google Search App.

This year Black Friday starts on Thursday, with Wal-Mart, Target and Toys R Us all kicking off sales on Thanksgiving night. To help you get a head start on the deal-seekers, try our new shortlists, a super-simple alternative to sharing lists of links or bookmarks, as well as 360-degree imagery for many of the season’s hottest toys on Google Shopping. For those of you brave enough to face the masses at the store, use indoor Google Maps to get in and get out of the mall fast.

By putting all your favorite Google features in one place, we hope we can help make things just a little bit easier this Thanksgiving—giving you more time to make memories with those who matter most and enjoy every last bite of that much deserved pumpkin pie. Visit our Thanksgiving hub to get started.

Fixing US 2 near Monroe in August so we’re ready for November

by guest blogger Bronlea Mishler

Rainy weekend forecast puts fix to the test

“When we inspected the culverts last summer, they really looked like Swiss cheese – holes everywhere,” said John Tellesbo, WSDOT’s Area 3 assistant maintenance superintendent. “We’d patched a few minor sinkholes on the shoulder, but it was just a matter of time before we got a big one that could have caused a serious problem.”

Snow. Ice. Mud. Rivers of rain. When winter weather flings its worst at the northwest, it’s not just drivers that have to bear the brunt of the unpleasantness. The roads themselves take a constant beating from the elements – and that means our maintenance crews have to be on their toes to keep the highways drivable.

Crews use the dry summer months to inspect and repair the highways – everything from filling cracks and patching potholes to replacing signs and maintaining culverts. Getting all that work done in the good weather means that the highways are prepared and ready to meet the bad weather – and that’s good news if you plan to hit the road during the winter months.

While all maintenance is important, our crews give special attention to highway drainage culverts. If you’re like most drivers, you’ve probably never noticed our culverts – that is, unless something has gone wrong. Flooding, potholes, sinkholes and big dips in the road are all highway maladies that can result from clogged or damaged culverts.

Despite our best intentions – and attention – sometimes old culverts don’t make it through a winter unscathed. There’s not much maintenance crews can do in the winter when the corroded old pipes begin to fail, except patch the resulting potholes and road divots. Until recently, the stretch of US 2 near Bickford Avenue was a particular headache for maintenance crews. Five culverts cross beneath the highway, carrying stormwater to nearby detention and treatment areas. And all five of those culverts were one storm away from falling apart.

New piping in place under US 2
Fortunately for drivers – and our maintenance crews – those culverts got ripped out this summer as part of a larger project to improve the nearby Bickford Avenue intersection. Installed in their place were five new culverts made of thick, heavy, rubberized plastic to better withstand the elements.

“We’re very fortunate we fixed them when we did,” Tellesbo said. “This is one less area we have to worry about this winter – and that means our crews can be out cleaning drains and catchbasins and keeping the highways safe.”

Holding true to our word: US 101 Simpson Avenue Bridge reopens to traffic one week ahead of schedule

By guest blogger Kelly Stowe

Holiday shopping season. Those three words were the driving force for our crews and contractor, Bergerson Construction, Inc., when we had to shut the US 101 Simpson Avenue Bridge down to pedestrian and vehicular traffic for up to four weeks.

More than 13,000 vehicles cross the US 101 Simpson Avenue Bridge each day in the Grays Harbor city of Hoquiam – for many local businesses, it serves as a direct route between them and their customers. When cars are bypassed around the route, it is a big impact to local businesses and the already struggling economy.

Bergerson Construction crews preparing to install a fender
pile during the Simpson Ave. Bridge closure on Nov. 8
“We know how much this bridge means to the community and that was on the forefront of everyone’s mind as we set out to make final stabilization repairs on the bridge,” said Scott Ireland, WSDOT Project Engineer.

The final stabilization of the bridge is a continuation of work that started back in August 2010 after our maintenance crews discovered unusual movement of the bridge.  A follow-up inspection revealed there was severe degradation of the most easterly pier and the US 101 Simpson Avenue Bridge closed until crews could stabilize it enough to reopen to traffic.

The bridge was stable enough to reopen to traffic in January 2011, but another closure would be necessary to finish all the repairs and give the citizens of Hoquiam a reliable bridge.

In July 2012, crews began preparing the bridge and the community for another closure. On Oct. 22, the bridge was closed to traffic while crews completed work that would install additional pier supports at the northeast and southeast corners of the pier; strengthen walls of the existing pier; transfer the remaining weight of the pier onto two new supports; remove the temporary tie-back anchors and cables; and remove and replace the bridge’s pier fender system.

With dedication and diligence, our crews and contractor worked with the common goal of reopening the bridge to traffic before the busy holiday shopping season.

Great weather and hard work paid off. During the early-morning hours of Sunday, November 11, the bridge reopened to traffic—an entire week ahead of the original four-week schedule.

Crews still have work to do under the bridge, but nothing that will require closing the bridge to pedestrians and motor vehicles.

“It was a great feeling to know that the community would be getting their bridge back sooner than expected,” explained Ireland. “And just in time for the busy holiday shopping season.”

Let your visitors skip the lines at the toll booths

 By guest blogger Emily Pace

Good To Go! customers can add out of town visitors
to their account so they don’t have to stop at the
Tacoma Narrows Bridge toll booths.
It’s the time of year when family and friends start coming into town for the holidays and we wanted to remind drivers how easy it is to temporarily add out-of-towners to your existing Good To Go! account. If you’re a Good To Go! customer there are two ways to pay tolls: install a pass in your car or register a vehicle’s license plate on your account. By simply adding a vehicle’s license plate to your account, called Pay By Plate, you can pay the tolls for that vehicle when it crosses the SR 520 or Tacoma Narrows bridges. You don’t need to install a pass.

With Pay By Plate, visitors can skip the lines at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge toll booths. We typically see heavy traffic eastbound on SR 16 near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge toll plaza on Thanksgiving Day between 5 and 11 p.m.; usually after dinner wraps-up. You can also use the 24th Street on-ramp to bypass the toll booths. Drivers without a Good To Go! account can choose to Pay By Mail on the SR 520 or Tacoma Narrows bridges and we’ll mail a bill to the registered vehicle owner within 14 days.

How Pay By Plate works: log into your online account or call customer service to add a vehicle’s license plate, make and model to a Good To Go! account. When the vehicle travels across the SR 520 or Tacoma Narrows bridges, tolling equipment will take a photo of the vehicle’s license plate. The license plate is then matched to the correct Good To Go! account and the toll is deducted.

When using Pay By Plate, drivers will be charged the posted Good To Go! toll rate plus an extra 25 cent fee for each toll transaction. Why the extra 25 cents? The extra fee helps cover the costs associated with processing these transactions. While our license plate recognition software is good, it is not perfect and some of the photos require a person to review.

While there is an extra fee, Pay By Plate is a great option for out-of-towners who are visiting someone with a Good To Go! account. You can have up to six vehicles on an account at any time, with a mix of vehicles paying with a pass or using Pay By Plate. Both options provide the lowest toll rates and allow visitors to skip receiving a bill in the mail or stopping at the toll booths on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Pay By Plate only works on the SR 520 and Tacoma Narrows bridges. Solo drivers wanting to use the SR 167 HOT lanes still need a Good To Go! pass.

And remember, this is not just a special holiday offer. Pay By Plate is available year round. So whether you have family coming for Easter, friends in town for SeaFair, or you’re caravaning on a road trip, consider adding your visitor’s license plates to your Good To Go! account. You can call customer service or log into your online account to add and remove vehicles and passes as needed.

Investing in green energy in Greene County, Iowa

If you drive northwest from Des Moines, Iowa, you’ll see a lot of corn fields. From time to time, you’ll also see wind turbines rising out of those fields, making efficient use of our natural resources to produce renewable energy. It’s places like these that are home to a vibrant, emerging clean energy economy.

Today we‘re announcing that we’ve made an equity investment of $75 million in a 50MW wind farm in Rippey, a small town in Greene County, about an hour outside of Des Moines. The Rippey project, developed by RPM Access, is expected to produce enough energy to power over 15,000 Iowa homes. The project, which is now in operation, uses turbines produced by Nordex USA at their Jonesboro, Ark. facility.

Investment team members Nick Coons and Steffi Russell-Egbert visiting the Rippey project on a (windy) day in October.

We’ve taken two approaches to greening the grid in Iowa, a state where we operate a data center. Back in 2010, we entered into a long-term contract to purchase wind energy from NextEra Energy Resources’ Story County II wind farm. This time, we’re investing directly into a wind project, which has been contracted to sell all of the energy to the Central Iowa Power Cooperative, an Iowa-based utility that will deliver the energy to local consumers. We’re happy to help make more renewable energy available to Iowans and to support the growing wind energy industry in the state.

This project brings our committed investment to the renewable energy sector to more than $990 million. Read more about our previous investments on our Google Green site.

The results are in—Zagat’s America's Top Restaurants revealed

To help people find the best places to eat in 46 U.S. cities and regions, we’re revealing the results of our 2013 America’s Top Restaurants Survey covering 1,822 of the nation’s top-rated restaurants. From Boston to Portland and Chicago to Miami, the results of this year’s Zagat Survey are based on millions of reviews from everyday diners who shared their experiences through their favorite Google products.

Winners include perennial favorites like the “exceptional” American Gary Danko (San Francisco), Eric Ripert’s French “seafood shrine” Le Bernardin (New York), and the “flawless” New American Bacchanalia (Atlanta), as well as top spots like Alinea (Chicago), Urasawa (Los Angeles) and Joël Robuchon (Las Vegas).

While many of the top restaurants break out the china and crystal, a number of standouts included in the guide are casual gourmet places like pizzerias: Settebello (Vegas and Salt Lake City), Supino Pizzeria (Detroit’s No.1 restaurant), Serious Pie (Seattle) and Dough (San Antonio); sandwich specialists: Bäco Mercat (LA), Cochon Butcher (New Orleans) and Melt Bar & Grilled (Cleveland); burger specialists: B Spot (Cleveland), Flip Burger Boutique (Atlanta) and Sketch (Philadelphia); and BBQs: Union Woodshop, Slows Bar BQ and Zingerman’s Roadhouse (Detroit).

Thanks to those of you who share your restaurant adventures with us, we also have a snapshot of what dining out in America looks like. Based on surveyors in 10 major cities, we have found that the average number of meals cooked at home (7.0 per week) outpaces the average number of meals they eat/take out (6.1)—a trend that has been building since the Great Recession. We also know that diners in Houston eat out the most (4.1 times per week vs. the 3.2 national average), and that at 19.6 percent, the City of Brotherly Love is also the city of most generous tippers.

Zagat ratings and reviews for tens of thousands of restaurants at every price point and cuisine are available via the Google products you use every day, like search, Google+, Maps and mobile.

Congratulations to this year’s winners and bon appétit!

A healthy grant to support healthy buildings

Imagine having nutrition-label-like data about every product you use at your fingertips—knowing exactly what ingredients make up things like office chairs or house paint and how they could impact your health today and 30 years from now. It’s a future that goes hand in hand with our commitment to creating the healthiest work environments possible and promoting transparency within the wide world of building materials.

Today, we’re taking a step toward that future with a $3 million grant to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a leading non-profit organization that works to create greener buildings and communities in the U.S. and around the world.

There’s a lack of clear and accessible information on building ingredients, which means that a lot of us might be exposed to potentially harmful and toxic chemicals in building materials—whether it’s in the desk you sit at every day or the building’s paints, tiles and carpeting. This grant is designed to improve human health and well-being by supporting more industry research and better standards around healthy materials.

We’ve already done a lot to eliminate many of these chemicals in our offices around the world, and we want to make it easier for others to do the same. The USGBC has had great success with their widely adopted LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system for the design, construction and operation of green buildings. LEED is certifying 1.7 million square feet every day with 9.3 billion square feet participating in LEED across all 50 states and 138 countries. We think they’re in a great position to build on this track record to create real and lasting change in the industry.

But it isn't enough just to have better labeling or standards about the ingredients in various products. We also need to know more about the ingredients themselves, which is why this grant also supports more scientific research and outreach so we can all do a better job of understanding how building materials impact human health. By doing so, we hope to empower consumers and businesses alike to make more informed decisions about the materials they purchase and use in their day-to-day lives.

Honoring the spirit of Veterans Day year-round

This Veterans Day was an especially poignant one for us at Google. November 9 marked the fifth anniversary of the Google Veterans Network, our employee volunteer community that strives to make Google a great place to work for those who have served, their families and their friends. Our group has doubled in size every year, and we represent 34 offices in nine countries around the world.

Veterans Day 2012 doodle

This year, we’re honoring the spirit of Veterans Day with a week of activities from November 7-14. Googlers deployed with Team Rubicon to Rockaway Beach, N.Y. to help residents recover from Hurricane Sandy, cooked dinner for military families at VA Puget Sound Fisher House, hosted a Meals Ready-to-Eat luncheon in Atlanta, Ga., and ran a U.S. Marine Corps Combat Fitness Test in Mountain View, Calif.—just a few of the events underway around the United States.

Our commitment to supporting the military veteran community at large continues to strengthen, with a focus on helping veterans make a successful transition to civilian life. Here are some examples of how Google tools and employees have joined the fight against veteran unemployment, in particular:

We’ve also put our technology to work as sponsors of Veterans Week NYC, including:
  • Google technology training for more than 100 wounded warriors and caregivers in NYC and a panel discussion, also broadcast on Google+, with advice for wounded warriors on transitioning to the civilian workplace.
  • A live broadcast of the Bob Woodruff Foundation's annual Stand Up For Heroes concert on YouTube and Google+ to raise awareness and funds for wounded warriors.
  • Tomorrow, Wednesday, November 14, a broadcast of the Big Apple Circus for military families around the country, hosted by the USO. You can join in the fun on Google+ where we’ll stream the performance live. 

Honoring wounded warriors with The Boss at Stand Up For Heroes on November 8. 
Photo by Stefan Radtke.

Please follow our new Google for Veterans & Families Google+ page to stay abreast of our support for the community all year long. Every day is Veterans Day here at Google.

Update Dec 7: You can now watch video from the November 14 Big Apple Circus on YouTube.

Deck the halls with tools for shopping

I love shopping for gifts for my family and friends, but it’s not always easy. Fortunately, the Google Shopping team has built several new tools to help you (and me!) get an early and stress-free start on holiday shopping.

Explore products in 360-degree detail on Google Shopping
Having trouble imagining what a toy actually looks like from the online picture? Now, when searching for a subset of toys on Google Shopping, you can see 360-degree photos of the products. These interactive images bring the in-store feeling of holding and touching a product to your online browsing.

Look for the “3D” swivel icon on the product image to see a toy in 360-degree view, on HTML5 enabled browsers. We’ve also put together a Holiday Toy Collection featuring this enhanced imagery—explore the collection on this site. 360-degree imagery is coming for other types of products soon.

If you’re a retailer or manufacturer interested in displaying these rich images of your products on Google Shopping, please fill out this form.

Use Shortlists to stay organized and collaborate with friends
New in Google Shopping, Shortlists make it easier to research products and plan purchases with friends and family. Instead of using bookmarked websites and docs containing long lists of URLs, or back-and-forth emails with friends, you can now consolidate all your shopping research in one place. With Shortlists, you can easily:
  • Keep track of products you like from Google Shopping and across the web
  • View product photos, prices and specs side by side
  • Share your Shortlist with friends, who can add their own ideas

Create a Shortlist by visiting or clicking the “Add to Shortlist” button as you browse products on Google Shopping.

Discover great deals and store promotions on Google Shopping
To help you make the most of your holiday budget, Google Shopping now shows discounts or promotions on the products you're viewing. If discounts or promotions are available, you can click on the link and visit the retailer’s site to redeem the offer.

That’s not all...a few more new Google Shopping features
Here are a few of the other tools we’ve created to make your holiday shopping a little easier:
  • Not sure you’ve found the perfect gift? Read reviews from people you know and write your own product reviews on Google Shopping.
  • Found an item that’s almost perfect but not quite? Now you can view “visually similar” results for even more types of products and categories, including jewelry, coats, handbags and more.
  • Buying an important gift? Look for the Google Trusted Store logo as you shop. It indicates a store ships quickly and delivers excellent customer service.
  • Shopping on the go? Browse for gift ideas, find local sales and research products with the new and improved Google Shopper 3.0, currently available for Android.
  • Still need some inspiration? Browse holiday catalogs from the top retailers directly on Google Shopping.

Happy holiday shopping!

Transparency Report: Government requests on the rise

We think it’s important to shine a light on how government actions could affect our users. When we first launched the Transparency Report in early 2010, there wasn’t much data out there about how governments sometimes hamper the free flow of information on the web. So we took our first step toward greater transparency by disclosing the number of government requests we received. At the time, we weren’t sure how things would look beyond that first snapshot, so we pledged to release numbers twice a year. Today we’re updating the Transparency Report with data about government requests from January to June 2012.

This is the sixth time we’ve released this data, and one trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise. As you can see from the graph below, government demands for user data have increased steadily since we first launched the Transparency Report. In the first half of 2012, there were 20,938 inquiries from government entities around the world. Those requests were for information about 34,614 accounts.

The number of government requests to remove content from our services was largely flat from 2009 to 2011. But it’s spiked in this reporting period. In the first half of 2012, there were 1,791 requests from government officials around the world to remove 17,746 pieces of content.

You can see the country-by-country trends for requests to hand over user data and to remove content from our services in the Transparency Report itself, but in aggregate around the world, the numbers continue to go up.

As always, we continue to improve the Transparency Report with each data release. Like before, we’re including annotations for this time period with interesting facts. We’re also showing new bar graphs with data in addition to tables to better display content removal trends over time. We’ve now translated the entire Transparency Report into 40 languages, and we’ve expanded our FAQ—including one that explains how we sometimes receive falsified court orders asking us to remove content. We do our best to verify the legitimacy of the documents we receive, and if we determine that any are fake, we don’t comply.

The information we disclose is only an isolated sliver showing how governments interact with the Internet, since for the most part we don’t know what requests are made of other technology or telecommunications companies. But we’re heartened that in the past year, more companies like Dropbox, LinkedIn, and Twitter have begun to share their statistics too. Our hope is that over time, more data will bolster public debate about how we can best keep the Internet free and open.

Ghetto Film School uses Google+ to teach master classes in filmmaking

The best thing about building tools is seeing what people do with them. Since Google+ launched, it’s been fascinating to discover people using it in ways we never could have dreamed up—like the photographer who figured out how to turn a camera, a phone and Hangouts into Virtual Photo Walks.

Ghetto Film School had a different idea. They’ve been running filmmaking programs for young people in their South Bronx neighborhood since 2000, and when they heard about Google+, they thought it would be a great way to bring what they do to teenagers beyond the Bronx. And from that simple idea, Ghetto Film School’s MasterClass series—discussions between great directors and young filmmakers from around the world—was born.

Ghetto Film School’s story is the latest addition to the Google+ Stories YouTube channel. Each video captures how people—from small business owners to astronomy fans to journalists—are using Google+ to connect with others who share their interests. Have a Google+ story of your own? We’d love to hear about it.

Let indoor Google Maps be your guide this holiday shopping season

The holiday shopping season is upon us. Your favorite retail stores are already playing holiday tunes, promoting sales, and decking out their displays in red and green. But if flashbacks of people rushing all around you frantically trying to find gifts for everyone on their lists are giving you anxiety, fret not. This year you can use indoor Google Maps on your Android device to stay cool, calm, collected and most of all, one step ahead of the crowd.

On Black Friday and throughout this holiday season, simply zoom in to a participating store on Google Maps to devise your shopping game plan. An indoor floor plan with helpful labels will automatically appear, and the familiar “blue dot” icon will help you figure out the fastest way to the accessories department, the food court when you need to refuel, and the closest restroom or ATM when you need a break from your marathon shopping session. For many locations, you can even get indoor walking directions to find the best route from one store to the next.

Indoor Google Maps for Mall of America in Bloomington, MN (left)
and for Macy's in New York, NY (right) 

These accurate, easy-to-use indoor maps are available for a number of popular retail locations across the globe including many local malls and select Best Buy, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Harrod’s, Selfridges, John Lewis and other stores. With the help of your Android device, you can beeline it to the camcorder you’ve been eyeing for your dad, and then quickly make your way to that sweater you know your sister will love. For list of additional venue partners, including some in Belgium that just became available today, check out this list.

Indoor Google Maps for West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (left) 
and for Nordstrom in Seattle, WA (right) 

We hope these indoor maps make finding your way in and around retail stores easier, less stressful and more efficient this holiday season. To access them, simply update Google Maps on your Android by visiting Google Play on your phone or desktop. Happy holiday shopping!

The new Acer Chromebook

Creating a better, simpler computer and making it available for everyone is at the core of the Chromebook vision. It’s exciting to see people using Chromebooks as the perfect additional computer in the home, and we continue to work with our partners to make them easy-to-use and more affordable. Today, we’re delighted that our partner Acer is introducing a new addition to the Chromebook family: the new Acer C7 Chromebook.

The new Acer C7 Chromebook delivers a hassle-free computing experience with speed, built-in security and the simplicity of automatic updates. It features a full-size keyboard, fully clickable trackpad, an extra bright 11.6-inch display and over 3.5 hours of battery life. Powered by an Intel Core processor, the Acer Chromebook is fast—boots up in 18 seconds, resumes instantly and high-definition videos play smoothly (yes, videos like Gangnam Style in 1080p, in case you’re one of the few left who hasn’t seen it). You can easily store your stuff on the Chromebook or in the cloud, with a 320GB hard drive and 100GB of free storage on Google Drive.*

As you’d expect from a Chromebook, it’s easy to share with others around the home. Moms, dads, siblings or even your roommate can all have separate accounts and simply log in to get things done. And because Chromebooks bring you the best of Google, if you use products like Gmail, Drive, Maps, YouTube and Google+, your stuff is always available and everything just works.

Starting tomorrow, the Acer Chromebook will be available for $199 in the U.S. on Google Play, and rolling out this week in select Best Buy stores. In the U.K., it’s available on Google Play, Amazon UK, PC World and Currys. We’re working hard to bring it to more countries soon.

Together with Acer, it’s great to welcome the newest addition to the Chromebook family. We hope it will make a great additional computer for your family, too. New Chromebooks, for everyone.

*You will have 100 GB of free storage for 2 years, starting on the date you redeem the offer on eligible Chrome devices.

Update 11/15: The latest update for the Acer C7 Chromebook enhances battery life to 4 hours. You should get this update when you open your computer for the first time. Thanks to auto-updates, you already have a better computer than the one you bought.

(Cross-posted on the Chrome Blog)

National University Honours Admission 2012-2013

২০১২-২০১৩ সেশনে জাতীয় বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের সম্মান শ্রেণিতে ভর্তি কার্যক্রম চালু হয়েছে। আগামী ৭ ই ডিসেম্বর সকাল ১১টা থেকে ভর্তি পরীক্ষা শুরু হবে।
অনলাইনে আবেদনপত্র পূরণের শেষ তারিখঃ ২৫ নভেম্বর।

অনলাইন অ্যাপ্লিকেশনের জন্য Apply Online link এ  গিয়ে আবেদনকারীর রোল নম্বর, বোর্ড,শাখা, প্রাপ্ত ,জন্ম তারিখ ও কলেজের নাম সঠিকভাবে এন্ট্রি দিতে হবে। শিক্ষার্থীরা ওয়েবসাইট থেকে কলেজের বিষয়ওয়ারী তালিকা ও আসন সংখ্যা জানতে পারবে। শিক্ষার্থীরা তাদের পছন্দ অনুযায়ী কলেজ নির্ধারণ করে সব কটি Eligible পছন্দক্রম দিয়ে ভর্তি ফর্ম পূরণ করতে হবে, ভর্তি ফর্মে পছন্দক্রম নির্ধারণ করে submit করা হলে পরবর্তীতে তা আর পরিবর্তন করা যাবে না। একজন প্রার্থী শুধুমাত্র একটি কলেজের জন্য আবেদন করতে পারবে ।

যদি কোন শিক্ষার্থীর মাধ্যমিক ও উচ্চ মাধ্যমিক পরীক্ষার দেয়া তথ্যের সাথে ওয়েবসসাইটে সংক্ষিপ্ত তথ্যের অসংঙ্গতি পরিলক্ষিত হয় সেক্ষেত্রে শিক্ষার্থীকে ওয়েবসাইটের মাধ্যমে দিয়ে সঠিক তথ্য এন্ট্রি দেয়ার সুযোগ দেয়া হবে, এ ক্ষেত্রে মাধ্যমিক ও উচ্চমাধ্যমিক পরীক্ষার মূল নম্বরপত্র ও রেজিস্ট্রেশন কার্ড সংশ্লিষ্ট কলেজে দেখিয়ে প্রবেশপত্র সংগ্রহ করতে হবে ।

সঠিক তথ্য সহকারে ফরম পূরণ করে করা হলে আবেদনককারীর নাম ও ভর্তি পরীক্ষার রোল নম্বরসহ একটি নতুন আববেদন ফরম কম্পিউটার স্ক্রিন প্রন্টে দেখা যাবে, উক্ত ফর্মটি সরাসরি অথবা ডাউনলোড করে A4 (৮.৫ ইঞ্চি/১১ ইঞ্চি) সাইজের অফসেট সাদা কাগজে প্রিন্ট দিতে হবে । আবেদনকারীকে প্রিন্ট করা ভর্তি ফর্মের তিনটি নির্দিষ্ট স্থানে রঙ্গীন ছবি সত্যায়িত করে লাগাতে হবে এবং নির্দিষ্ট স্থানে সাক্ষর করতে হবে । 

ভর্তি প্রার্থীকে যে শাখা থেকে (মানবিক, বিজ্ঞান, ব্যবসায় শিক্ষা শাখা) উচ্চ মাধ্যমিক/সমমান পরীক্ষায় পাস করেছে জাতীয় বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের ওয়েব সাইট থেকে সেই শাখার জন্য নির্ধারিত প্রাথমিক আবেদন ফরম (9-11-12 তারিখ রাত ১২.০০টা থেকে 25-11-12 পর্যন্ত আবেদন ফরম পাওয়া যাবে) পূরণ করে A4 (৮.৫ ইঞ্চি/১১ ইঞ্চি) সাইজের অফসেট সাদা কাগজে প্রিন্ট করে ভর্তি পরীক্ষার নির্ধারিত ফি বাবদ ২৭০/- (দুই শত ষাট) টাকা ও ছবিসহ অফিস চলাকালীন সময়ে 26-11-12 তারিখের মধ্যে যে কলেজে ভর্তি হতে ইচ্ছুক সেই কলেজে জমা দিয়ে প্রবেশ পত্র সংগ্রহ করতে হবে।

ভর্তি পরীক্ষার আগের দিন সংশ্লিষ্ট কলেজ থেকে শিক্ষার্থীকে তার পরীক্ষার নির্ধারিত কেন্দ্র ও স্থান জেনে নিতে হবে, পরীক্ষার দিন শিক্ষার্থীকে অবশ্যই প্রবেশপত্র নিয়ে পরীক্ষার কেন্দ্রে উপস্থিত হতে হবে ।
আবেদনন পত্র অত্যন্ত সতর্কতার সাথে ভর্তি ফর্ম পূরণ করতে হবে আবেদন পূরণ করার পর সংশোধন বা বাতিল করার সুযোগ থাকবে না।

(ক) ২০০৮ সাল বা তার পরে যারা মাধ্যমিক/সমমানের পরীক্ষায় এবং ২০১১ ও ২০১২ সালে উচ্চমাধ্যমিক/সমমানের পরীক্ষায় উত্তীর্ণ হয়েছে কেবলমাত্র তারাই জাতীয় বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের অধিভূক্ত অনার্স পাঠদানকারী কলেজে নিন্মলিখিত শর্ত পূরণ সাপেক্ষে আবেদন করতে পারবে।

(খ) ২০১১/২০১২ সালে উচ্চমাধ্যমিক পাস প্রার্থীকে মাধ্যমিক ও উচ্চ মাধ্যমিক উভয় পরীক্ষাতেই পৃথকভাবে ন্যূনতম জিপিএ-২.০ পেতে হবে, মাধ্যমিক ও উচ্চ মাধ্যমিক পরীক্ষায় ন্যূনতম মোট জিপিএ ৪.০ পেতে হবে।

(গ) যে বিষয়ে সম্মান শ্রেণীতে ভর্তি হতে ইচ্ছুক সে বিষয়ে অথবা অনুমোদিত সমগোত্রীয় বিষয়ে প্রার্থীকে উচ্চমাধ্যমিক পরীক্ষায় ন্যূনতম গ্রেড পয়েন্ট-৩.০ পেতে হবে। 

(ঘ) 31-12-2012 পর্যন্ত ভর্তিচ্ছু শিক্ষার্থীদের সর্বোচ্চ বয়স বাইশ বছরের অধিক হবে না। 

(ঙ)মাদ্রাসা বোর্ডের আলিম পাস ছাত্র/ছাত্রী যারা বিজ্ঞান গ্র“প থেকে আলিম পাস করেছে তারা (ক), (খ), (গ), (ঘ) শর্ত পূরণ সাপেক্ষে বি.এসসি সম্মান শ্রেণীতে ভর্তির জন্য আবেদন করতে পারবে।

(চ) ডিপ্লোমা-ইন-ফরেস্ট্রি শিক্ষার্থীদের (ক), (খ), (গ), (ঘ) শর্ত পূরণ সাপেক্ষে শিক্ষার্থীদের ব্যবসায় শিক্ষা শাখার ফরম পুরণ করতে হবে, ডিপ্লোমা-ইন-ফরেস্ট্রি, ডিপ্লোমা-ইন-এগ্রিকালচার, ডিপ্লোমা-ইন-ইঞ্জিনিয়ারিং-এ পাস করা শিক্ষার্থীদের (ক), (খ), (গ), (ঘ) শর্ত পূরণ সাপেক্ষে বিজ্ঞান শাখার আবেদন ফরম পুরণ করতে হবে। এ ক্ষেত্রে 31-12-2012 পর্যন্ত তাদের বয়স তেইশ বছরের অধিক হবে না।

(ছ)“O” লেভেল পরীক্ষায় অন্তত ৪(চার)টি বিষয়ে এবং ২০১১ ও ২০১২ সালে “A” লেভেল পরীক্ষায় অন্তত ২ (দুই)টি বিষয়ে উত্তীর্ণ ছাত্র-ছাত্রী সম্মান শ্রেণীতে ভর্তির জন্য আবেদন করতে পারবে। তবে তাদেরকে ও লেভেল এবং এ লেভেল পরীক্ষায় মোট ৬টি বিষয়ের মধ্যে কমপক্ষে ৪টি বিষয়ে বি গ্রেড এবং দু’টি বিষয়ে সি গ্রেড পেতে হবে।

(ছ) বিদেশ থেকে প্রাপ্ত ডিগ্রী/ ডিপ্লোমা /সার্টিফিকেট সংশ্লিষ্ট শিক্ষা বোর্ড/কর্তৃপক্ষ কর্তৃক উচ্চ মাধ্যমিক এর সমতুল্য নিরূপিত হলে প্রার্থী ভর্তি পরীক্ষায় অংশ গ্রহণ করতে পারবে। তবে শর্ত থাকে যে, এরূপ সমতা নিরূপণ সনদপত্র ভর্তি পরীক্ষার আবেদন ফরম কলেজে জমাদানের সময় প্রদর্শন করতে হবে এবং আবেদন ফরমের সাথে সনদপত্রের সত্যায়িত কপি জমা দিতে হবে। তারাও সরাসরি ডীন, স্নাতক পূর্ব শিক্ষা বিষয়ক স্কুল এর সাথে যোগাযোগ করবে।

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Routine of Degree Examination-2011

National University published Exam schedule of Degree examination-2011. The examination is going to be held from 6th December, 2012. 

Here you can Download the Routine.

New SR 522 Snohomish River Bridge takes shape in Monroe

Crews secure a girder section that will support the
new westbound SR 522 Snohomish River Bridge.
By guest blogger
Meghan Pembroke

Widening SR 522 between the Snohomish River Bridge and US 2 in Monroe is a massive undertaking with a lot of moving parts. All along a four-mile stretch of SR 522, crews are blasting rock, building bridges, digging ponds, constructing walls and hauling out dirt to make way for two new lanes. And that’s not all. In the next year, before construction wraps up in 2014, they’ll also build a new roundabout, a noise wall and a wildlife undercrossing.

The most herculean undertaking of all is the creation of a new 1,700-foot-long Snohomish River Bridge that will carry westbound SR 522 across the river. Crews reached a major milestone last week – though daily drivers might have missed it entirely. Well below the sight of drivers on the existing highway, behemoth girders arrive daily, one by one. Crews are working steadily to piece together the new bridge, one girder at a time.

The first of 49 steel girders arrived Nov. 1, after an overland journey that began in Libby, MT, at Stinger Welding. The last leg of its journey took it up I-5 and east on US 2 to the SR 522 interchange, where it picked up a WSP escort. Each of the next 48 girders will make a similar journey to their final destination above the Snohomish River.
But getting the girders to the project site isn’t as simple as it seems. Once the trucks arrive at the existing bridge, crews have to get the girders down the steep embankment to the work area below the bridge. The solution: A temporary off-ramp. Crews took out a section of guardrail and on a rainy Tuesday night, built a temporary ramp from westbound SR 522 to the ground-level work area. They covered it with steel plates to keep the truck tires from sinking in and give the big semis some extra traction. Using brief overnight rolling slowdowns, the girders roll down the ramp and are unloaded before the trucks head back out on Tester Road.

Crews are using an army of cranes to set the first batch of girders this fall. Each assembled girder ranges in length from 150 to 305 feet and weighs between 30,000 and 55,000 pounds – and those are the small ones. The smaller girders will form the backbone of the eastern end of the bridge – primarily over land – on the north side of the river.

But the real action will come next spring, when the massive, river-spanning girders arrive on scene. These girders will be even longer and heavier than the girders we’re setting now. Crews will use huge steel rollers to launch the girders up, out and over the river, where crews will secure them between piers in the river.

Even though drivers might not see a difference as they pass by the project area each day, these girders are good news. It means that we’re one step closer to opening two new lanes of SR 522 by fall 2014. Crews pushed hard this summer to complete the piers during a limited in-water work window. Their efforts meant the girder setting – what’s known as “critical path work” in WSDOT lingo – could start right on schedule. 

If you’re a westbound passenger, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the new bridge coming together as you approach the Snohomish River. For the rest of you, we’ve updated our Flickr set with photos of the work.