Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Road Construction

The summer driving season is here even though summer is still more than a couple months away. Tuesday Gator Wife and I were riding in several places in Portland, Scarborough, Biddeford and places in between. We came across several roads with the flaggers controlling traffic. You know the ones. They stand in one place all day long with a pair of signs on a pole: Slow, Stop.

Sometimes by sight, sometimes by car count I suspect, and sometimes via two-way radio communications with another flagger on the other end of the construction, the flaggers turn their little signs to either direct the traffic onward or stop it.

This is a great service to the motorist, and most of the time drivers are warned well in advance that such a construction situation is just ahead. Some of these people do an outstanding job of minimizing as much as possible the delays the work is causing and they seem to be fair in how they let cars/trucks through.

Tuesday, though, we came upon a couple of signs that got us to thinking. They were electronic ones that warned us we were approaching a construction zone and be prepared to slow down or stop. Then the electronic message blinked to a new frame: "To avoid delays, seek an alternate route."

What a ridiculous direction! In one place, we were in an area totally unfamiliar to us. We had absolutely no idea where there were any "alternate routes" we could seek. We literally had no choice but to continue on to the flagger and patiently wait for our turn to pass the construction.

GW and I have driven throughout this country and have run into road construction more often than I can remember to count. I understand the need for road construction and the need to keep traffic away as much as possible. Most places, including here in Maine, when we're asked to use an alternate route, detour signs direct us to turn, give us directions along the way, and those detours get us back to our original route. It adds a few miles and a little time, but for many of us just keeping the car moving forward is better than just sitting, waiting.

Another place where we found one of those "seek alternative route" signs was in Portland. This one was just plain foolish. First, the length of the construction at that point was a block or less. From the time we first saw the "seek" sign until a block later when we saw the "end construction" sign, there were no side streets or any way to do any seeking except, if we could, turn around and go back to look.

We live in Maine which has a short road construction season, so we have no choice but to live with the delays. But it seems to me it would lengthen some fuses if we were given alternate routes rather than simply admonished to find one in an totally unfamiliar area. And contractors should be sure that flaggers are properly trained to alternate direction of flow in a fair, equal manner.


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