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Route 5: (Road)work in progress

What we really need, down on the lakefront, is T-shirts.

Specifically, T-shirts that proclaim, "I survived the Buffalo Harbor Parkway Project." To qualify, you just have to be among the 30,000 or so commuters who venture onto the shoreline each morning or afternoon to see what new drving challenges await them. The T-shirts could be sold or distributed anywhere traffic slows to a crawl -- which isn't much of a limitation in peak rush hours.

This thought came to me as I was following a semi through mud at the infamous Ohio Street elbow, the turn under what is still the non-bridge at the Small Boat Harbor -- you know, the one where traffic from east side of downtown gets 30 seconds to turn onto Fuhrmann, good for about 10 cars, before the Skyway crew gets another two-minute shot toward hearth and home. Anyway, this morning, the road had been completely removed. God knows where they put it. I assume it'll be dusted off and put back somehow, but this morning it was a bit of off-roading with the trucker doing his best to squeeze between orange pylons. Not completely successfully.

Route 5

I have the utmost respect for the folks who are doing the roadwork down there. There's artistry in timing the speed-up of huge trucks heavily burdened with gravel across the traffic lanes and up steep embankments. And the flagmen who have to deal with the motoring public surely deserve a special place in heaven (one with signs saying, "Slow Down").

But this whole trip, for Southtowns commuters staying with a major commuter route despite the hassles, is far from over. The $55 million roadway was launched with an initial day of traffic jams last July 11. It's a two-year project. At this point, it still looks like the construction of a training course for Jeep drivers -- not those newer suburban SUV Jeeps, but the rockcrawling kind. And along the detours, they still keep throwing in the occasional new bottleneck -- without taking any of the old ones away.

In the meantime, here's a salute to the Ohio Street commuters who know the day goes a little easier when everyone just forms a single line even before getting within sight of the "elbow" and its lane restrictions. And to those who have grown to love the "shoot-the-chutes" curves at the end of the southbound Skyway. And to all those, on the morning commute, who recognize that the Tifft off-ramp's rght lane is ONLY for those turning onto Tifft (come to think of it, couldn't they afford a traffic light down there, so traffic wouldn't back up onto the elevated highway?).

As for everyone else, you know who you are.

-Mike Vogel     5/8/2009 

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