actually made a New Year’s resolution this year. It is this: to try and control my occasional road rage, which has been described by a frequent passenger as a sort of Mel Gibson-meets-Zsa Zsa Gabor meltdown.
I had stopped making resolutions, not because I don’t believe in them, but because I’ve realized there are forces beyond my control that conspire to send most of them crashing and burning before Super Bowl Sunday.
(In fact, I had made a resolution one year not to watch the Super Bowl halftime show. Turned out it was the one that featured Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction.” You see what I mean?)
I’m not confident this one’s going to last, either, for nothing seems to press all my buttons at once quite like the orange barrel, the concrete divider or the almost apocalyptic “Road Work Ahead” signage that signals the beginning of another exciting construction season.
For such a small state, we do an awful lot of road work. I’m not talking about the good kind of construction—fixing the potholes I seem to be drawn to like a moth to fire, widening a shoulder to give me plenty of room to replace a tire, or installing more motorist call boxes to connect me to someone who can walk me through how to use a jack.
Delaware seems to specialize in the kind of road construction projects that leave you thinking the Amish have had it right all along, the projects that begin with ominous warnings like “Expect Major Delays” or “Next 15 Miles” or “Beginning March 10 Until Kingdom Come”—the type of projects that require a “Flagger Ahead,” a Stygian figure with black hood and scythe (or so it can seem) posted to direct you into the Gates of Hell and Beyond.
It’s no wonder that everything at a construction site is colored hellfire orange.
Besides the gridlock of a particular construction site, it’s really those connect-the-dots sort of multiple projects that conspire to produce a mouse’s maze of blockages.
I once set out on a journey in Wilmington that began with the routing of traffic around an intersection project on Pennsylvania Avenue, then out onto I-95 South that invited one to Merge Left due to a lane closure near the intersection of State Route 1. Later, driving north on the same I-95, I was invited to Merge Right to funnel me and a gazillion others through a double lane closure near that same Route 1 interchange. I exited onto Churchman’s Road to find the following sequence of signs:
End of Detour
Road Work Ahead
End of Road Work
Road Work 500 Feet
In other words, I had entered upon a “thoroughfare” that had served as a “detour” for some other road project—a detour that was directing me to the beginning of another construction project, even as some previous project had ended just in the nick of time, no doubt, to make way for the new project 500 feet ahead.
As for that stretch of Route 7 through Hockessin that seems to be in an eternal state of reconstruction, a kind of training center for new road construction employees to perfect their gridlock techniques, I would simply post a sign at its Kirkwood Highway intersection, a paean to a DelDOT Divine Comedy, which would read: “Abandon All Hope, All Ye Who Enter.”
I’m not blaming DelDOT for all this. We did this to ourselves by forsaking mass transit for the so-called freedom of the automobile. So as we prepare for another spring construction season, I’m proposing a new motto:
Delaware—The Be Prepared To Stop State.
Reid Champagne stays pretty close to home in Newark.