The Season of Orange Barrels & Evil Concrete

A friend of mine, who lives near Chicago, posted this on her Facebook page:

It’s officially Hell/Summer in Illinois. It’s over 50 degrees and every (#$%^*@$) possible route to work is under construction – even the ‘long way.’ Kill me now.

I chuckled to myself. Quite loudly.

I’m in the same boat.

Road Constr Photo

As soon as the snow melts and the temperatures hit a respectable high in Wisconsin, the proliferation of orange barrels and detours cause drivers to swear over the impediment of their travels. There is always road construction somewhere in the state. It is unavoidable. Resistance and sputtering over the loss of time to stop for a donut and coffee are futile. In this state, we joke that there are only two major seasons: Winter and Road Construction.

Road Construction season has been especially eventful in this area and in cities to the south and north. It started with a major overhaul of Highway 41 (now Interstate 41) through Oshkosh around the spring of 2010. Two lanes in each direction turned to three and an outdated, dangerous  bridge was replaced with a beauty of an eight-lane bridge. Almost every time I went to visit the parents, and then just mom, I would get stuck in a traffic slowdown on the way home. There were days when the highway turned into a parking lot and a 25 minute trip home would lengthen into 45 minutes or longer. The DOT finally finished that project in 2013.

Currently, there’s a massive I-41 project in Green Bay. Four lanes turning into six (or more), and a section on the north side that has a Milwaukee-Marquette interchange feel with its fly-over bridges, roadways or whatever you call them. This road construction may not have been annoying to me, except that I now make almost weekly trips to the home of my favorite football team for personal reasons. Thankfully, I don’t have to drive through all of the devastation, but enough of it that calls for total concentration of the surroundings and both hands on the wheel. I don’t know when this project will be done, but I would guess not this year. From the looks of it, there’s a couple additional years of work to accomplish.

Finally, the Road Construction that is close to home:

The Wisconsin DOT has developed plans to reconstruct the US 10/WIS 441 freeway. The WIS 441 Tri-County Project will reconstruct and expand US 10/WIS 441 from four to six lanes from Cold Spring Road to about 1/2 mile east of Oneida Street (approximately 6 miles). The project is needed to address safety concerns and traffic demands on one of the region’s vital transportation routes. Currently, the crash rates on US 10/WIS 441 exceed statewide averages for similar urban freeways. Traffic volume is expected to rise on US 10/WIS 441 in the years ahead, and additional traffic lanes are needed to safely accommodate this increase. Most of the existing interchanges also need improvements.

This project is also massive, but definitely needed – especially the bridge that has been a poster child for bad planning for years. Built in the 1960’s, the planner or engineer had absolutely no foresight when it was built. Two narrow lanes head east and west, but there is no shoulder for anyone with a flat tire. If an accident occurs on that bridge, traffic is backed up for hours. It’s extremely dangerous in bad winter weather and additional insult includes an interchange (to get onto I-41) that is void of a couple on/off ramps. When heading east toward the bridge, there is no way to get onto I-41 north, and if you are traveling north on I-41, you cannot find a ramp that will take you west onto 441. Silliness.

Again, no foresight by the planner. Or perhaps he was stoned. Or drunk. The locals call this “the Polish Connection.” (No insult intended toward those of Polish heritage, I didn’t come up with that moniker.)

Anyhow, the reconstruction project of six miles has closed roads that run under the overpasses, including this one.

Road 1

It’s one of the roads I normally take to work in the morning. I’ve had to go around, which isn’t the worst, but I often wonder about the two ladies that walk the dog, every morning at 6:30 am, down the sidewalk that is closed. I wonder where they have gone. Do they stay home or walk to the Shell station for coffee? I wonder if the dog is a bit plugged up because his usual stop is under the overpass. Can he poop in the grass by the Shell station? I wonder.

I naively thought that this would be it, the carnage in Green Bay and on 441 and overpasses would be the most of the road construction this summer. I thought wrong. I do better at wondering.

The WI DOT also thought it wise to give I-41 through the Appleton/Fox Valley area a face lift. What this means for us, the commuter, is that three lanes in each direction is down to two narrow lanes, protected closely on at least one side by these lovely cement beings:

Road Jersey

Here you see them in their primitive, non-dangerous state. One alone is harmless. String a bunch of these jersey barriers together and you have a tension-inducing gauntlet that tries to suck drivers toward the smoothness of their faces.

Who invented this atrocity?

They are evil.

I hate them.

I’m not sure how long the I-41 face lift or 441/Hwy 10 reconstruction will last, but until the projects are completed, I’ve chosen to take a longer, peaceful route to travel when I visit mom on Saturdays – down a simple two-lane highway where the speed limit is 55 mph and there is a lack of large cranes and men in bright orange vests.

I’ve also chosen to keep both hands on the wheel, keep my eyes on the road, and pray while maneuvering through orange barrels and past the concrete barriers of Road Construction season.

In conclusion, I’m wondering (again) if you have the same season where you live. Do you rue the day the orange barrels appear? Do you despise the jersey barriers? Do you use expletives while driving through construction? Do you pray to your God?

Do you wonder where the dog poops?

8 responses to The Season of Orange Barrels & Evil Concrete

  1. loisajay says:

    Year round here in sunny FL. One town north of me is furious. Going on 5 years for this one project. Numerous business have shut down because you look at that maze and tell me you are going to drive through it? At night, no less? Ridiculous. I feel your pain. And yes, please find out about the dogs. 😀

    • bikerchick57 says:

      It makes me sad when a local business shuts down due to road construction. There’s a Mexican restaurant near one of the closed roads and I wonder if it will survive.

  2. My WI-based MIL is sitting here with me. 🙂 In sunny SC. We can get cold. But you wouldn’t want to trade places with me in July or August. 🙂

  3. It’s a year-round proposal here. The best ones are the ones who decide to mend the road outside the school starting at about 8.30am. Good onya… Couldn’t wait until the holidays maybe?

    I hate those concrete barriers too. It’s true. They try to suck you in. They scare me.

    I’m hoping “six lane freeway” means three lanes in each direction. But nothing about the size of anything in America would surprise me.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Yes, it’s three lanes each direction. That’s plenty. If the day would come when we needed six lanes one way, that’s the day I would move. I am not a fan of huge cities.

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