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An Issue Close To Home

February 1, 2018

Sorry, today’s entry is about local issues to my little town of Pleasant Grove, Utah. Tomorrow, I’ll post about a wonderful concert and my intriguing companion. But, today, it’s about local issues.

The Road Not Take was written by Robert Frost. It’s actually called “The Road Not Taken.” Robert Frost’s often misunderstood poem. It includes the stanza:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

But, most people think of it as “The Road Less Travelled.” I have a section of road out in front of my house that I love to drive on. It’s literally only about 100 feet long. It starts on 960 E and extends around the corner to Murdock Dr. Sure, it’s short, but for those few dozen feet, it’s a pleasure to drive on. It’s flat and smooth and new. A reminder of what our roads could be like. A cruel mockery of what other cities’ roads do look like.

What makes this little stretch of road so remarkable is that just before it on both the 960 E and the Murdock Dr sides the road is a mess prior to this intersection. Coming West on Murdock Drive, smart drivers will steer to the extreme right of the road. You can follow the paved over cut that was used to install the pipes for the development just down the next block. If you stray too far toward the middle, your car will start to porpoise, rising and falling over the ruts in a way designed to mimic a really, really terrible roller coaster.

Coming South on 960 E is even worse. The road has sunk enough that you have to actively steer around the manhole cover that rises like an island in a sea of asphalt.

Yes, our roads are in terrible shape. Most of them anyway. I have a friend who lives on the East Bench. He made a fortune and is comfortably retired while still young enough to indulge in expensive “toys.” I remember overhearing a conversation he was having with another neighbor.

“I was thinking about buying a McLaren. I even drove one when I was down in Vegas.”

“So?”

“I decided not to.”

“Didn’t like it?”

“Oh, I loved the car. It was amazing. But, I realized that with it’s low ground clearance, I couldn’t drive it on Pleasant Grove roads. It would rip out the undercarriage.”

Last fall we all were presented with an interesting ballot Proposition that was designed to address the issue with our roads. Prop 3 would have taken $2.625 million from the general fund and earmarked it specifically for road repairs. Ultimately, the voters of Pleasant Grove defeated it at the ballot box.

I have to admit, I was intrigued by the possibility that Prop 3 offered. After all, aside from 100′ of new road that the developer put in, the road in front of my house is terrible. Who wouldn’t want to force the city to finally deal with the road issue?

I didn’t discuss my position on the Proposition in this space. But, now that the election is over, I can say that I opposed it. And I was somewhat vocal about it online. I considered the Proposition well intentioned, but ultimately flawed.

I’m not interested in rehashing the arguments for or against Proposition 3. However, as some of my friends online have pointed out: our roads are still just as much in need of repair as they were before the election. In fact, the longer we go while underfunding the roads, the more we will ultimately have to spend to fix them down the road.

So, what’s to do? Mayor Fugal and the new city council members were elected partly on their opposition to Prop 3. Each of them had their reasons for coming out against it. Those of us who voted for them expect them to have a plan. The most recent discussion has been around a road tax. (Yes, it’s called a fee, but fees are just taxes on specific services or activities. Let’s call it what it is.)

I don’t know if the road tax is the right solution. No one likes new taxes. But, we also don’t like the state of our roads.

Years ago Pleasant Grove passed a bond to fix the roads. It did a lot of good, but unfortunately, it limited what future city administrations could do. They had to service the bond debt, and that took money away from road maintenance. So, bonds are not a good option for roads.

Those of us who agreed with the council that Prop 3 was not the right answer are now waiting patiently on the City Council and Mayor Fugal to come up with a plan. And let’s hope it’s not just a plan for this year, or the next three, or even the next five. We need a long term plan that will take into account the average life of a road, the cost of maintenance, and ultimately the replacement cost down the road. Let’s see a 20-25 year comprehensive plan. We are willing to pay more for the roads. But, we need a plan.

If not, we may find ourselves rewriting Frost’s poem.

“I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

141 miles of road went through my town and I —

I promised to fund them properly by and by

And that has made literally no difference.”

(With apologies to Robert Frost)

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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