Thursday, June 28, 2007

Beyond High Gas Prices

Ohio Turnpike Ticket
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Recently I completed a road trip of 1,880 miles from my home in Powell, Wyoming to my parents home in Akron, Ohio. The route of travel wasn't the most direct trip as past trips nor did I complete it in anything close to record time. So, it's safe to say that besides the $500-plus petrol expense, it was a relaxing road trip for the most part.

The trip involved some interstate, national and state highway travel. While the interstates were fast and direct, many of the secondary roads in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, for example, were slower and not as direct. Of course there was plenty of construction along the way and some stretches of road begging for construction—improved simply if the asphalt were ripped up and the surface returned to a graded dirt road.

Perhaps the worst section of road I travelled was a remote stretch of Minnesota's state route 210 winding through Jay Cooke State Park. Some of the bumps and holes in the asphalt made me think of roadside bombs in Iraq—and I was only traveling at 35 mph during much of this drive. Fortunately it was a scenic drive. Beyond SR210, I found the remainder of Minnesota's roads acceptable.

Although I've never traveled New Jersey's Turnpike, I've heard enough horror stories about it throughout my life—even in song. Yet after this recent trip, I'd be surprised to discover that the Ohio Turnpike isn't in the same league as New Jersey's famed ribbon of treacherous asphalt.

Trucks, trucks and more trucks… everywhere on the Ohio "Truckpike!" And many of them don't have time to hang out behind a leisure-driving vehicle from Wyoming. For good or bad, today's truck drivers represent the new cowboy in the 21st century. And if the semis breathing down your back don't give you a migraine, than the jarring potholes in the road and the road construction will. Twice I pulled over at one of the turnpike plazas and neither time did I need petrol or a toilet, I simply needed to dry off and calm down. When I finally exited the Buckeye State's turnpike, I felt payment was owed to me rather than paying Ohio's interstate landlord for such a miserable driving experience.

I'm unsure what it would take to make the Ohio Turnpike more pleasant—more lanes, fewer trucks, smoother asphalt, all of the above? Perhaps they should divvy it up into two dedicated car lanes and two dedicated truck lanes in both directions. No doubt, such a proposal would be extremely costly, but as long as this continues to be a major east-west running thoroughfare, perhaps it could be easily justified and accommodated—once we stop pouring billions of dollars into our country's war-making machine.

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