Once in a while, everyone becomes a speed-demon on the highway. Those who must drive East to West across the lower palm of Michigan know that it could be deemed “The Most Boring Highway on Earth.” There is nothing to see but roadkill, outdated billboards, and the Lion’s Den.
Personally, I allow myself 10 mph over the posted speed limit on long, open stretches of road. I diligently check my mirrors for the po-po and I follow all traffic rules. But no matter how high my driver karma is, I can’t seem to get a break here in Michigan. My ride back to Kalamazoo for the summer from my home town of Detroit, which usually takes two and a half hours, took over four hours. Moving from four lanes to one, in rush hour, in several construction zones with low speed levels, I swerved from side to side and drove on the shoulder just for kicks.
Travel in Michigan is a bitch. During the winter, there are severe travel advisories set in place for the whole state, warning about the hazards of driving on icy roads (not that anyone would know from this map, anyway). But heavy, frozen water is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to dangerous driving here. Every season poses a threat to the roads.
For Michiganians, the idea of merging into one lane on a four-lane highway is almost a right of passage for summer driving. Come Spring, the construction workers immediately line the lanes with oversized, neon-orange barrels while trucks blink a bright yellow arrow like a sign on Broadway. This custom isn’t limited to the main highways, either—there’s no escaping construction on local highways, city streets, or any other possible route available.
With all the weather changes that the Wolverine State sees in half a year, let alone half a week, the alleged cause of the roads can be considered “uncontrollable unluckiness.” The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) takes advantage of the few weeks of sunlight to fix these roads, commencing summer’s Construction Season. The first step is clearing the construction path, regardless of how long the project will take, or how it affects the thousands of passing drivers. Michiganders, please add at least an hour to your commutes.
There must be a way to outsmart Mother Nature, right? According to a report by the non-profit organization TRIP, Michigan indeed would benefit from the transportation projects, altering the outstanding unemployment and the various types of drivers:
To achieve sustainable economic recovery, Michigan must proceed with numerous projects to improve key highways, bridges and transit routes. Enhancing critical segments of Michigan’s surface transportation system will boost the state’s economy in the short-term by creating jobs in construction and related fields. In the long term these improvements will lead to economic competitiveness by reducing travel delays and transportation costs, improving access and mobility, and stimulating sustained job growth, improving the quality of life for all Michiganians.
The lack of funds set aside for quality materials can be added to the list of blames. Fixing it is as simple as raising some money for weather-resistant roads. Sure, construction is inevitable, but if that work that was done could be done one time, there would be no need to risk the danger of construction on daily work routes. No one wants to suffer through the agonizing alternation between the accelerator and the break, but if it fills even a small pool of employment Michigan, anything is possible. As soon as residents tire of the potholes, it’s time to suck it up and pay some well-deserved taxes.
Once we clean up the roads, we can focus on entering the 21st century. Firstly, Michigan should hire workers to maintain a website for real-time traffic reports, replacing this joke. Those who care enough to take small steps in the right direction ironically know their way around the internet far better than the actual MDOT. DriveMI holds a petition that strives for more taxes dedicated to better roads. Considering the radio has lost its place as a source of information, traffic notifications should exist somewhere.
Secondly, Michigan must adjust their public transportation system, another significant money saver. With less money thrown in the black hole of construction’s current state, more money can go to installing public transportation services that can focus on daily commutes, while reserving roads for longer trips, such as shipping truck routes. Building good roads is like putting money into education—this is an investment that creates undistorted solid ground, with more convenient transportation methods for everyone.
In the meantime, the drivers must keep their cool with the stop-and-go traffic. Watch how the traffic flows to keep the accelerating and breaking to a minimum. If you’re alone, find some good podcasts or make a good playlist, because you may be in for a long, monotonous road.