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Why I Love Construction Zones

February 20, 2019

It was late for my commute home. I was returning from a team event in Salt Lake City a few days ago. The freeway was unusually crowded for a Tuesday evening. But, it wasn’t so much that the freeway had more cars than usual. It was that construction had shut down the three righthand lanes of the freeway. That in addition to the fact that the carpool lane has been shut down for months.

Spindly orange construction cones planted in the Spring blossom into huge orange construction barrels in the Fall.

It seems that the stretch of freeway between my home in Pleasant Grove Utah and Salt Lake City has been under construction for the entire time I’ve lived in Utah, off and on for 30 years.

And I’m thrilled with it.

You might find it curious that I enjoy these construction zones. I don’t like driving through them of course. I drive a full size SUV. The lanes that are not closed down have been narrowed. At times I feel my fenders are hanging over the lane lines on both sides.

The reason I’m happy for the construction zones goes back to 1980. I was 15 years old and a freshman in high school. My brother was a junior. Our high school basketball team was playing in the state 2A high school basektball tournament at Key Arena in Seattle, the home of the NBA Seattle Sonics.

Our high school was in Olympia Washington. Olympia is about forty miles south of Seattle. During the tournament, we made multiple trips from our home up the I-5 corridor to downtown Seattle and back again with the game was over.

Our team went on to win the championship. I can still remember the drive home. My brother driving our car, and our friends in their cars around us on the freeway. We all probably were driving too fast, as high school kids will. Fortunately, all of us made it home safely.

You know what we didn’t have to worry about on that drive home all those years ago?

Traffic cones.

My family still lives in Olympia. I’ve had occasion to return to vist, most recently just a couple weeks ago. My lovely wife, my brother and his fiance all flew into Seatac last week to attend a family event in Olympia.

Once again we were driving South down the I-5 freeway. There were construction cones this time. Washington Department of Transportation is frantically trying to widen the freeway to relieve the terrible overcrowding that for years saw the population of the Puget Sound area explode and the number of freeway lanes remain stagnant.

The problem the DOT has is that the area around the freeway is heavily developed. Houses, shopping malls, universities, factories. They all compete for space along a precious strip of land between the Sound and the mountains.

And for years, nothing was done. I’m probably underestimating, but it seems there are the same number of freeway lanes today as there were all those years ago when my brother and I were celebrating the success of our high school.

I drive up and down the I-15 corridor between my home and Salt Lake City nearly every day. I can tell you there are definitley more lanes today than when I first made this trip as a young college freshman headed to BYU in Provo.

Not only are there more now than then, there will be more lanes next year than this one. As Utah experiences a population explosion, the load on I-15 will only continue. And by all appearances, the Utah DOT plans to keep up.

So, go ahead and curse the ubiquitous orange barrels that seem to be native residents of our Utah freeway. For my part, I will smile as I crawl past them on my daily commute.

For I remember the championship of 1980.

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.

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