Lileks: What if we skip road construction season?

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 28, 2013 - 10:51 PM

Two unrelated stories that actually belong together, if I take this hammer and bang the round one into a square hole:

First, electronic pulltabs have not resulted in the ceaseless shower of money some consultants predicted. Some people blame the games themselves, which lack the physical interplay of real pulltabs. It’s like someone waves a wand and a dollar vanishes from your wallet. It’s much more fun to rip up the dollar yourself.

Since the pulltabs were intended to fund the stadium, we find a new source of money or we eliminate some items like “doors” or “the part of the roof over the cheap seats.”

Item two: MnDOT has released the list of 2013 construction projects. Like a software update, it’s mostly bug fixes and stability improvements. Dull reading. Just once you’d like to read a list of upcoming projects like this:

Hwy. 666 between County Road A and Cemetery Road. Sealing up sinkhole that opened a gateway to an alternate dimension filled with goblins. Lane closures, occasional possession of signalmen by demons.

Interstate 94, Twin Cities to St. Cloud. Re-striping for unicycle lane right down the middle. Some legislative prankster sneaked that through an appropriations bill and no one noticed. Nothing we can do.

Interstate 94, Alexandria to Fergus Falls. That stretch of the $*#$^ you swore we just ripped up and repaved will be #$*@# ripped up again for no &^$*@# reason you can see. Single lane, no shoulder, no exit, 90 miles.

Interstate 90. Orange barrels will line the shoulder for 37 miles just to make you think something will be happening soon. Then they will be removed. June-October.

Hwy. 10, Motley. Bridge repair. Well, putting in a bridge. Right now there’s a ramp and a sign that says “Floor it.”

County Road Z, Pipestone. Overpass demolished and raised one inch. One stinking inch. The engineer who designed it made a mistake, and he’s all like “Hey, everyone has a bad day, can’t you just lower the road?” and we’re like, “Dude, seriously? You’d have to grade the depression for an eighth of a mile to allow double-semis to get under,” and he gets super defensive and says that trucks are too tall anyway, and now we all call him “Too Tall” behind his back except he heard about it and now says “2-Tall” is his gangster rap name.

County Road 47, Stearns County. Installation of traffic signals at unregulated intersection of two highways with 55-mph speed limit; steam-cleaning to remove skid marks.

County Hwy. 99, Warroad. Shoulder grooving so your tires make that BRRRAAAAPPPP sound when you drift on the shoulder because you turned around to tell your kid in the back seat to knock it off. Scared the hell out of you, didn’t it? Good.

Interstate 35, Hinkley to Duluth. Random strewing of blown semi tires, just to make you realize what it’s like to pilot those enormous vehicles, lose a tire and fight the wheel like the sea captains of yore who gripped the wheel of a sailing ship in the teeth of a gale. Ever had your little put-put Prius slapped into the ditch by the hind part of a fishtailing rig? No? Well, thank a trucker, you ingrate.

Hwy. 10. Perfectly good road converted to 10 miles of miserable washboard concrete because we’re pretty sure Bob who runs the machine that rips up the road is going to get canned for coming in late all the time and he’s not the type to take that well.

That would be refreshing, but it’s not the case. No, it’s the usual civic improvements, projects great and small. Necessary work. But I remember a year when I had clear sailing on 10 up to Fargo. Orange-free.

Not that the road was perfect — there was a bumpy stretch up to St. Cloud where you felt every groove in the old road. BaDUM baDUM BaDUM baDUM. It got in your bones. You pulled off at McDonald’s and said, “I’d LIKE a BURger FRIES a COFfee PLEASE” and the intercom voice said, “Three FIFty SIX pull FORward PLEASE” because she took the same road.

But I’ll take that over closures, bypasses and lane-shifts that toss you into oncoming traffic. So, how about we just skip the construction for a year? Who’d complain? Use the money for the Vikings stadium. Yes, I know, that’s ridiculous. So give it to the MnDOT workers and tell them to play electronic pulltabs.

Design a special game where they have to touch the iPod screen to run over orange barrels and make them fly up in the air. You know they want to see that. We all do.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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