Heart Doc Likens Capital Region Commute To Coronary Artery Disease
By Scott Salad
Published September 27th, 2015
The Twin Bridges from Google Earth
COLONIE — A top cardiologist at St. Peter's Hospital in Albany says if Interstate 87 were one of her patients she'd be prepping it for emergency heart surgery immediately.
Dr. Katherine Billingsly-Beaumont insists the Twins Bridges — which traverses the Mohawk River connecting Saratoga and Albany counties— is not unlike a narrow, kinked artery restricting blood flow to the heart.
“The Northway has a classic case of atherosclerosis,” said Billingsly-Beaumont. “If the Capital Region is the heart and commuters are the oxygen, the Twins would be the massive blockage that precedes a massive coronary thrombosis.”
The widely respected cardiovascular disease specialist — who commutes from Saratoga — points to several contributing factors.
“The road — which is basically a straight shot north to south — suddenly takes on a weird S-shape as it approaches the bridge. This forces a mass deceleration that ripples backwards for miles. Couple that with the lack of shoulder on the bridge — which is similar to cholesterol-laden plaque deposits that inflame blood-vessel walls — and you have a recipe for disaster.”
The author of nearly 350 journal articles is convinced her medical background could shed light on a possible solution.
“If I-87 were a patient of mine, I'd be setting up the Department of Transportation equivalent to an angioplasty, stat,” said the 52-year-old Stanford grad.
The relatively common procedure involves the placement of a tubular support known as a stent at the point of the blockage. Once the device is locked into place, the troublesome plaque compacts, resulting in a wider, more linear vessel.
Critics of the plan, like DOT Director Paul F. Schlubkin, say it’s not that simple.
“Let me guess,” sniped Schlubkin. “A smarty-pants has solved our traffic problem. First we had a dip-shit lawyer tell us it's like a stalled bill in Congress. Then a software engineer called for a hard reboot of the entire area. Now a heart quack wants to shove a balloon-tipped catheter up our ass? Get real. What we really need is a boatload of money and really good civil engineer. Any idea how that's going to happen?”
While Billingsly-Beaumont admits she's more of a “big picture gal” and “cool with delegating,” she says she will continue to support a stent-like operation if it improves congestion.
“If traffic keeps getting worse, tension levels will rise and more people will develop actual heart issues. That is, of course, if their increased exposure to local talk radio doesn't drive them to jump off that goddamn bridge first.
“We think we got it bad now,” she added. “Imagine what our commutes will be like then.”