Saturday, June 8, 2013

Summer Road Construction Season

Today is Saturday, June 8, 2013. 

Summer road construction gets started in April or so every year, and by May most of the biggest projects are well underway.  Where I live, the snowplows do a lot of damage to the roads when they scrape them clean of snow.  Every spring, there are new potholes in the road, and every summer the potholes get filled.  The other thing that damages the roads during the winter is the salt mixture that they put on the roads to keep them ice-free.  When that stuff dries on the road, it seems to white out the painted lines.  Even after the spring rains wash the salt off the roads, the faded lines have to be re-painted.   Besides the potholes and the lines, there are always resurfacing projects, road-widening, and bridge repairs.  Those orange and white barrels are everywhere, especially on the interstate highways.  

In Sioux Falls, the "big city" near where I live, there are a number of improvement projects going on.  Last year it was 41st Street, one of the busiest streets in the city.  This year, they are widening the intersection of 57th Street and Western Avenue.  Unfortunately, that is where my chiropractor office is located, so it now takes me 45 minutes to get there, instead of only 30 minutes.  

As I was driving on the interstate highway today, I thought to myself that I'm finally getting used to driving in narrow lanes marked by orange markers.  I didn't feel the need to go much  more slowly than the posted limit, which I'm sure the driver behind me appreciated.  Still, I was passed by a number of people today as soon as we got out of the construction zone.  My motto is, "Let 'em pass."   

When I got to Kansas City, I got onto I-70 from I-29, and the traffic was bumper to bumper in all lanes.  I immediately realized that the three-lane highway was going to be reduced to one lane.  Not only that, but the road was completely closed, so everyone had to exit.  Fortunately, we were traveling slowly enough that I was able to get on my cell phone and ask for alternate directions to my destination. Unfortunately, we were going so slowly that it took over an hour just to pass two exits in order to get off the highway, and then, because everybody was getting off, the traffic was still slow until motorists were able to get onto another route.   All told, the construction turned a 20-minute portion of the drive into a 90-minute nightmare. 

Sometimes I can tell the difference when they've done some construction, especially if they widen a street or highway, or resurface it.  Other times I wonder what they did, exactly, that took them so long.  Still, I should exercise more patience.  After all, our roads in the USA are among the best in the world, and I'm grateful that I don't have to drive on unpaved roads or even on smaller highways with slower speeds and only one lane each way.  The roads in the interstate highway system are wide and well-maintained, and as such they support traffic at high speeds.  The speed limit is 75 miles per hour in South Dakota, and  70 or 65 miles per hour elsewhere, which means that you can now travel in about six hours a distance that used to take 12 hours.  

So... although I was not happy about being stuck in traffic the other day, I am grateful for the interstate highways.  :-)

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