The Independent Daily
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An Online Journal of Independent Views & Discussion
June 7, 2013
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Published in Northern Arizona, USAhttp://www.TheIndependentDaily.commailto:editor@TheIndependentDaily.comshapeimage_2_link_0shapeimage_2_link_1

Driving to the Grand Canyon?

Get ready to Bump and Grind

GL Hill

“If you plan to motor west…Travel my way, take the highway that is crappiest. Get your Jolts on route Eye-Fortiest.”

A cumbersome variation of the popular song – Get Your Kicks on Route 66 – and equally painful to drive: Interstate 40 (I-40) is the third-longest major east–west Interstate Highway in the United States (after I-90 and I-80). It’s one of the top three most traveled interstates in the US.

I-40 is just over 2555 miles long passing through North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma (Oklahoma City looks O, so pretty…No it doesn’t), Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Over three hundred and fifty-nine miles of this soon-to-be-derelict highway are in Arizona. It is a major transportation corridor for much of the goods that we Americans consume in vast and disproportionate quantities to the rest of the world. It’s also how thousands of tourists every year get to the Grand Canyon.

It’s like our Welcome mat.

Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) does an average job of keeping the pavement rolling through the cities; but once outside of (and between) Kingman, Seligman, Williams (turn left for the Grand Canyon) and Flagstaff, the road is reminiscent more of an old wagon trail filled with potholes and ruts grooved into the pavement, some the size of the Grand Canyon, thereby saving you additional travel and admission costs.

Currently most vehicles (including those huge semi-trucks pulling vans or flatbeds) straddle the line, either the lane line or shoulder line whether your driving in the lane next to them or not, to avoid this mostly-rutted, dilapidated interstate. Might we imagine that from this practice there would be an increase in the number of accidents?

You bet. Reminders such as burned pavement, abandoned automobile parts, hubcaps, blown tractor-trailer tires, and the skeletal remains of once-determined tourists litter the roadway.

Work performed in the past 5 years along the I-40 between mile marker 59 (east of Kingman) and 87 (nearly 30 miles) has consisted mainly of Metal Beam Guard Rail (MBGR) replacement, and mowing the shoulder and median (and thereby grinding the intentionally overlooked litter, including once-exuberant tourists, to a feathery covering swept away in the always windy region).

Major bridge work has occurred twice; and an inordinate number of turn-arounds were created near Kingman, all of which you cannot use: they are for emergency vehicle use only, having been built under the recently amended, I didn’t buy enough donuts provision safeguarding our Highway Patrol officers from undo hardship.

Road surface maintenance of Interstate 40 has been neglected with the exception of the occasional 3-man crew (ADOT’s version of the Blue Man Group) throwing shovels of asphalt into potholes near the interstate’s shoulder. To be accurate: One shovels; Two observe.

While ADOT guard rail replacement/repair crews and sign/post replacement crews block off an interstate lane for a mile or more prior to their work, these 3-man pothole patch crews have one orange cone (maybe) about 6 feet prior to their work area.  As the flow of traffic allows (remember that this is on one of the most travelled interstates in the US at posted speeds of 75 miles-per-hour), they toss a shovel full of asphalt into the pothole for the oncoming traffic to compact, and repeat this process until the hole is half-filled and all passing vehicles have at least 2 pounds per tire of the black, sticky stuff irrevocably adhered to the tread.

The requirements for pothole repair seem to be: 1) pothole must be close enough to the shoulder for the 3-man crew to fill from the shoulder; 2) pothole must be visible using Google Earth.

If the highway were actually maintained the need to replace hundreds of miles of MBGR would drop off substantially.

Curious as to when we might see much needed surface repairs to the I-40, I checked 2013 work scheduled on I-40 in Mohave County is limited to “Bridge Rehabilitation” (in Kingman) and “Sign Rehabilitation” between Mile Marker (MM) 75 and 122. In other words, signs and bridges will be in Rehab for the year while the pavement continues to abuse vast quantities of alcohol and drugs.

In fiscal year 2014, “Pavement Preservation” (too late) is scheduled between MM 57 and 71.5 (this portion is also US-93; US-93 has had a huge amount of money thrown at it for the past several years). My hope is that “Pavement Preservation” will consist of resurfacing all lanes of the Interstate in both directions.

In fiscal year 2015, Pavement Preservation is scheduled along I-40, westbound between MM 74 and 79 (eastbound not listed for repair), and eastbound between MM 87 and 92 (westbound not listed for repair). The rutted and potholed section of I-40 between MM 79 and 87 is not referenced for pavement work in ADOT’s five-year forecast of work. Hopefully, there will still be some road surface of I-40 left to “preserve” by 2014 and 2015.

In 2009, ADOT was to receive an estimated $350 million for highway and bridge projects (explains the work and re-work of bridges) statewide as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Per, our Governor, Jan Brewer, was quoted as saying, “The transportation projects supported by economic recovery funds will benefit every Arizonan,” and “The creation of jobs is vital to our economy, and so are stronger connections between communities and our neighboring states. Arizonans will return to work and our roads will get the improvements they need.”

The bubble-text (thought but not stated) must have been, …yeah, as long as you live in Phoenix… Unfortunately, none of those funds seemed to have gone, or are scheduled to be going to maintain the I-40 road surface.

Is it all about discomfort? It has nothing to do with that: In the most and frequent extreme, it’s about swerving, maneuvering, avoiding, confronting, recovering, and the culminating accidents and deaths along this vital artery.

At the very least it’s about cracked windshields, destroyed tires and suspension systems, chipped paint, and knowing that most of our foreign tourists who travel the road are thinking, What the hell is wrong with this country?

I don’t know…we’re broke, I guess.

But, doesn’t our trash look nice ground up

like newly fallen snow?