Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Roads to hell

I live on a winding and narrow country road that doesn't get a whole lot of traffic. If two cars meet each has to drop a wheel off the pavement and slow down (of course there are jerks who don't) in order to pass safely. The situation is made tougher when one (or both) of the vehicles is a large feed truck, farm equipment, or school bus. Then things come to a virtual halt as drivers carefully navigate past each other trying to avoid ditches and deep holes along the roadside.

Blind curves because of
lack of mowing/trimming
cause accidents!
A few days ago there was a head-on accident just up the road. Luckily both vehicles had air bags, speeds were low, and the injuries were minor. While driver inattention or unfamiliarity with the roads may have contributed to the accident, a major factor was the lack of mowing and years of neglected roadside brush/tree clearing that could have improved the line-of-sight for both vehicles.

While NOVA and Hampton Roads have their well-publicized congestion and other traffic issues, many in rural Virginia are facing potholes, branches and limbs, and other unsafe conditions on our rural backroads. Budget cuts and the increasing privatization of road maintenance services... decisions made by the governor and General Assembly... are responsible for the deterioration of our scenic country roads.

About this time last year I called VDOT to report that trees and brush encroaching on the road were becoming a safety issue, especially in the spring and summer when leaves are lush. A private contractor came out and surveyed the area and then... never returned. With a warm spring and good moisture weeds and thistles are four and five feet tall yet no mowing has occurred. This adds to the visual obstruction problem.

We didn't have much snow last winter but the private plow boys were still running... and I imagine charging their standard mileage rate to the state. One evening three plows went by (with plows down and scraping nothing except for the times they strayed off the road and gouged my lawn) this stretch of road to deal with a minor two inch snowfall that would have been gone early the next day. I'm sure the state received a bill... or bills... at least I wasn't the only one gouged.

Here is the point -- the failure of the governor and General Assembly to get serious about transportation funding and the GOP rush to privatize services has left many of us in rural Virginia less safe on roads. Needed maintenance is often delayed or neglected while private contractors may be double dipping and overcharging. We were far better off when VDOT did the road maintenance and snow removal themselves rather than managing private contractors. Beware the unintended consequences of Republican "good intentions."Profits in a few hands while shoddy services affect us all.

County roads take me home. But slowly.

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