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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Larry Simoneaux
Bio: Larry Simoneaux
Date:  January 6, 2008
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40 Miles of Bad Road

There may be a road like this where you live. If so, the following applies...wherever you may be.

Add another name to the list.

That would be the list of the dead and injured on U.S. 2.

This time the name we’re adding would be Thomas Turner, a 17-year-old returning from a snowboarding trip.

He should have gotten home safely. He should have lived to be 18. He should not have been a headline in the newspaper.

Forty seven dead since 1999. Sixteen of these deaths due to crossover accidents.

When a highway chalks up this kind of carnage, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that something’s wrong. Neither does it take any deep thought to figure out that it’s time to do something about it.

The population’s growing. Traffic’s worse. Distractions are everywhere. That road is dark at night and narrow all the time. This is Washington. That means it’s also wet and slippery when it’s not icy and slick.

Then there are all of the other things that can cause accidents. Speed, inattention, mechanical troubles, falling asleep, medical conditions, blowouts, and on and on. There’s not a lot of room for error on that highway and, when bad things happen, there aren’t a lot of places to bail out.

All of the above can happen on the best of roads. Put them together with what we have on U.S. 2 and you get that list mentioned earlier.

I think we understand that fixing this is going to cost money. Fine. One reason we pay taxes is to build and maintain safe roads. For the legislators out there, believe it or not, many of us understand this and are OK with it as long as the money’s not wasted.

Neither are we against studies. If a study is needed, do one but then, by all that’s holy, go out and do something. If there’s one thing that frosts a lot of us, it’s this state’s penchant to spend a bundle of money studying something to death but never actually doing anything.

Instead of flogging study proposals to death in some committee (where good ideas go to die and “process” is king), it’d be nice to find a leader who’d be willing to tackle this mess. Who’d be ready to take on the naysayers. Who’d listen to arguments and proposals. Who’d consult with whomever has some expertise, and who’d then make a decision and act on it.

Because this is likely to be expensive, it’d also be good to find a leader who’d make sure that estimates are accurate and costs don’t get out of hand. That materials purchased are what they’re supposed to be. That contractors know what they’re doing. That waste be kept to a minimum. That goals be set and met. And that this not become some miniature version of Boston’s “Big Dig.”

Proposals are starting to come in.

Rumble strips? Fine. Maybe they’ll wake someone up in time to avoid trouble. Maybe not. My bet is that, if nothing else is done, that loud rumble will be the last thing someone hears before he or she plows into an oncoming vehicle. Good start, but not enough.

Concrete barriers? Unless the roadway is widened, these would likely mean the narrowing of an already tight highway.

Reduce speeds? OK, but to what level? Too slow and we’re likely to back up traffic and cause other problems. Not slow enough and what’s the point.

I’m not forgetting us either. “Us” as in us drivers.

We know that highway’s reputation. We should be paying attention, driving with our lights on, not following too closely, passing only when safely possible, not talking on cell phones, not texting, not applying makeup, not eating, and certainly not (add your thought here). If there’s one road in this area where we should be doing nothing but driving, this is that road.

Thomas Turner was 17. He’ll never be 18. There’s a world of hurt in that last sentence. Just ask his family.

Unfortunately, Thomas Turner is just the latest name.

If nothing’s done. If we let things slide. If we come at this in some half-assed way, we’ll soon wake up to read yet another name.

Forty seven people killed isn’t a statistic, it’s an indictment

It’s not called the “Highway of Death” for nothing.

Fix that damned road.

Larry Simoneaux

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Biography - Larry Simoneaux

Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.

Read other commentaries by Larry Simoneaux.

Copyright © 2008 by Larry Simoneaux
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