Friday, June 13, 2014

The Roads Too Many Take

The poet Robert Frost wrote eloquently of the road not taken. He was not talking about modern highways, but could have been.

I wish more people opted for the road not taken. It would make certain road trips easier.  Specifically drives along I-95, the highway too many take from Maine through East Coast states ending in south Florida, and passing through some of the most populous areas in the country, and the world.

Like New York City.

Once again hub and I packed the car and took off on the not-so-open road, a thoroughfare packed with cars, construction trucks, mounds of dirt and concrete, and assorted traffic-related annoyances.

Ambulances blaring sirens.

Electronic billboards silently shouting messages in brightly colored hues.

Road signs, lights, detours, and lots and lots of BFTs - big f**king trucks.

Overhead electronic signs indicate drive time to specific landmarks. Everyone wants to know how long they will be sitting in traffic. The sign changed as we watched, adding minutes to the already long wait through the great New York City borough of the Bronx. But I am getting ahead of myself...

We began the drive in our quiet, sedate south Jersey hometown. I could begin by describing the pristine scenery and interesting sights passed.

Except we were driving through New Jersey.

The southern end of Jersey has scenic sanctuaries, such as farms, this time of year brimming with almost-ripe blueberries and an assortment of luscious looking vegetables. Wineries began springing up about a decade ago and now grapevines dot the landscape. The forested Pinelands, small towns, retirement villages and shore communities complete the landscape.

But that is not the scenery observed this trip.

Heading north on the Garden State Parkway, concrete barriers and construction equipment greeted us. The parkway is being widened from two to three lanes, and miles of construction debris line the roadway.

I cannot, however, verify with my own eyes that work is being done. I did not actually see construction equipment and trucks moving. I did not see any workers.

It was not raining, it was a weekday, and as far as I know was not a holiday.

Maybe the state is waiting for federal money to complete the job?

Maybe Governor Christie intends to balance the budget by delaying some of the work into the next fiscal year.

Or maybe they were all on a break. At the same time. Along the length of the highway.

There is a silver lining to driving the Garden State. Trucks are banned. I love not having to drive behind, around, or in front of BFTs.

The iconic New York State highway maven of the mid-twentieth century, Robert Moses, designed parkways for cars only. Moses insured the policy by building bridges too low for trucks. The roads are immune to the exhortations of trucking companies and politicians to change the status quo.

I return to the Garden State.

Because of the massive construction project there was no bucolic landscape to write about.

Ever hear of an exit to a service plaza but no return to the highway? No signs indicated the on-ramp back to the road was blocked by - what else? - traffic cones and construction equipment.

The service plaza is probably the only one anywhere on a limited access highway with an exit to local streets. It is a secret means of accessing local roads on a need-to-know basis.

We meandered through area streets and returned to the highway at the next entrance.

Thank goodness for a GPS.

Driving north, Jersey green turns into suburban sprawl and city madness in the form of multi-lane highways, more billboards, more traffic, lots more BFTs, more exits offering merging nightmares, and murkier air. Alongside roads a continuous stream of malls large and small, fast food restaurants, big box stores, apartment buildings, car dealerships, and an unending network of roads boggle the mind.  

Pretty it is not.

Interesting only to engineers and developers intent on building more.

It cost $13 for the privilege of crossing the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York State via the George Washington Bridge.

George Washington would be flabbergasted. Highway robbery. At least we missed Christie's Bridgegate fiasco.

The best - or worst - now faced us.

The highlight of any I-95 trip through New York City is crawling along the Cross Bronx Expressway.

Apartment buildings sit astride the highway on overpasses.

Underneath traffic inches along.

We stopped for dinner (the seafood platter at Artie's on City Island was great!) because we were hungry and, more important, to pass the time while clogged roads unclogged during rush hour.

No one rushes anywhere.

Back on the road, traffic moved at a steady senior pace, the speed senior citizens drive in Florida.

 There were still a lot of BFTs on the road.

We finally stopped for the night along the road, dropping a few bucks at a motel.

Our goal is to reach our destination - Cape Cod - before Friday afternoon traffic jams make crossing from the mainland to the Cape on a two lane bridge an exercise in frustration and dangerously rising blood pressure.

Why,  you might ask, are we subjecting ourselves to this craziness?

In one word: family.

Maybe the Tea Party's infrastructure policy has its merits. No money for maintenance, no money for new roads, no money for construction jobs, and eventually current roads will go to pot(holes) and we will have to stay closer to home.


  1. Sounds like I-5 from north of Seattle to the Oregon border.

  2. I avoid I-95 as much as possible. The BFTs are terrifying and I would rather take the slow roads anyway. I have been on all the roads you mentioned, but it has been a long, long time gone by now.

  3. $13 to get on a bridge? That almost sounds like the ferry problem here in Washington state. It's getting very expensive just to get from one place to another, not to mention frustrating. No wonder we have so much road rage. :-}

  4. Did you ever notice that you never have to pay a toll to get into New Jersey. But you always have to pay to get out!

  5. I am pretty much a leave the driving to someone else person. I have traveled to any and NJ hundreds of times and almost always using public transportation.

  6. I hate, hate, hate the New Jersey Turnpike, especially north of exit 8. Hate the traffic, construction and worst of all, crazy drivers.