Saturday, February 14, 2015

CalTrans at Its Finest

CalTrans workers in an unusually active moment

My brother and I are on our way home for the three-day weekend. It's a long drive, but we should have been home already except that we got stuck in some rather horrendous traffic due to road construction. I have strong opinions about road construction in much the way I have strong opinions about most matters,  usually whether or not I have any particular knowledge about said matters. 

Where road construction is concerned, though -- and particularly when CalTrans is somehow involved -- most of us who frequent the freeways of California have reached consensus regarding the overall operation of the system in charge of  the maintenance of state-operated roadways.  While the individuals in  the orange or neon-yellow vests and shirts who stand still watching other individuals in orange vests standing idly watching still other individuals in orange or yellow vests sitting atop machinery that sits motionless are mere pawns who need jobs to support themselves and/or their families. They're merely doing as they're told, which is basically to show up at a given location, don the neon clothing, and do nothing.

It's somewhere higher in the organization, at a level at which decisions are made,  where exists something or someone  more insidious, or at least something or someone bordering the maximum degree of incompetence conceivable without the assistance of supernatural forces. While I'm not above buying into the occasional  conspiracy theory (I'm not 100% convinced, for example, that Karl Rove wasn't somehow involved in or at least aware of the malfunctioning of voting  machines and re-routing of ballots to  out-of-state machines more favorable to his party's candidates in the Bush/Kerry election , nor am I totally convinced that he didn't unsuccessfully attempt the same thing in the 2012 presidential election), even I cannot reconcile the connection between supernatural evil forces and CalTrans operations.  Either someone in the governmental or private sector is  profiting financially through inefficiency in road repair, or, much more likely,  the  California Department of Transportation has in place an unwritten but utterly impenetrable policy of hiring only those with documented mental handicaps or verified levels of both physical and mental laziness. 

Let's face reality: essentially all factions of the mob, the Koch brothers, and  Karl Rove all have bigger fish to fry than the thorough decimation and consequent languid reconstruction of the U. S. 101.  

It's far more likely that it didn't occur to whatever person is in charge, if, indeed, there is actually anyone in charge of this operation, that it might make sense to tear up one lane at a time of a three-to five-mile stretch of freeway and repair it, then move on to the next  three- to five-mile one-lane stretch and accomplish the same thing with that piece of roadway until eventually the entire four hundred miles or so of three- or four-lane roadway had eventually been repaired. Instead, the MENSA members (and I'm communicating this  with far less sarcasm that is probably assumed; I'll give my dissertation on the organization of MENSA at some other time) masterminding the freeway reconstruction thought it made more sense to tear up nearly one hundred miles of to adjacent lanes while working on a tiny stretch of one of those two lanes at a time, thereby tying up traffic for literally hours longer than the cars should have been on that stretch of freeway. 

It shouldn't have taken a Rhodes Scholar to have determined that the earlier detailed method of road construction would have allowed traffic to move more efficiently along the interstate, but then, fewer CalTrans workers would have been available to stand making  GQ poses in their neon orange vests while watching  other workers watch still other idle workers watch machine operators atop their inoperable or otherwise idle machines.  There's probably a method or a reason for it, if only that more people are bringing home paychecks and therefore not using up welfare or state unemployment funds, but I still find it quite irksome when a five-hour trip turns into one that lasts over seven hours.

We took my car this time because it seemed wasteful to drive separate cars such a distance just for three days. I allowed my brother to drive my car because he dislikes driving less than I do. He's also a better driver. My driving is the epitome of caution - -perhaps even to the extreme --  but my reactions aren't quite so quick or automatic when another driver pulls a truly unsafe maneuver. We're safer with my brother at the wheel.

We won't make this trek again until spring break in March, but we'll probably leave at about 3:00 a.m. at that time so that we'll get through traffic leading into San Jose and those whole surrounding areas until long before commuter traffic arrives from its various directions. Once we get through Santa Cruz, the 101 south  is a breeze because it doesn't get hectic until south of San Francisco.

Perhaps it would be worth it to drive east just a bit and take I-5 on the way home. It's lovely [note the sarcastic font] terrain, but if it will avoid a two-hour delay, looking at what should be farmland lying fallow because of the drought might almost be tolerable,


  1. Yeah, I really hate the I-5 too--especially that lovely part by the slaughterhouse. But it is faster. If you really want to get your transportation construction jollies, come to SF where PG&E continues to rip up our streets and the extension of the MUNI train has turned Union Square into a war zone. In the meantime, enjoy your 3 days off!

    1. i hav traveled to SF only as a passenger. I'm not sure how long it will take me to muster the courage to travel its streets behinf the wheel. I've heard it's one of the world's most difficult cities in which to drive. The hills and their steepness alone are sufficiently daunting to deter the average coward, though I'm at least not driving a car with manual transmission.. I take on LA as though it's Mayberry, but SF still scares me.