It almost happened again the other day.
I almost struck one of those hideous orange objects.
I am not referring to a pumpkin or other Halloween decoration left in the roadway. No, I am talking about one of the orange barrels that have become a permanent denizen of Martinez.
Five years ago, when I moved to Martinez, I was told Petersburg Road would probably be widened. That piece of knowledge was one of the issues leading to our decision to live there. We thought that if another lane were added, it would make getting to work in the morning less hectic. Of course, we had forgotten that when government is involved two factors almost always prevail: the slow pace of progress, and the absence of logic.
The slow pace of progress became evident when property along the road was adjusted two years ago to make room for the widening. For months, we watched as a store on the corner of Baston and Petersburg roads was torn down and smaller buildings relocated.
Finally, crews came in and started blocking off traffic and moving dirt - and more dirt. Washing our cars became an almost daily routine for citizens living near the intersection, not to mention breathing construction dust. We endured traffic being stopped and rerouted. Detouring became a fact of life.
his was a discomfort for motorists, but I think all concerned felt it worth the improvement. But when the real widening began, so did my doubts.
I had envisioned that I would leave my home on Petersburg Road and be able to make a quick right turn onto Baston and access Washington Road without waiting. I quickly found this was only a dream. The reality is the right lane remained a through traffic lane. Those who anticipated making a right turn along River Watch Parkway moved into the right lane, usually in the general neighborhood of my driveway. This meant that all who wish to make a right turn at Baston Road now must wait in line behind even more traffic.
Those moving along Petersburg Road in either direction see a forest of orange barrels blocking the center of the road; what appears to be a break in traffic may hide an oncoming automobile. But this situation will disappear as the construction ends. Another, more permanent, potential for a safety hazard has raised its ugly head and appears to be the result of that lack of logic I mentioned earlier.
In addition to the jungle of orange barrels, a concrete wall appeared down the center of Petersburg and Baston roads, denying motorists access to businesses on the opposite side of the road. Some motorists have found unique, albeit unsafe, ways of combating this by making U-turns.
Aside from the safety of the motorists, this project has created another problem. Drivers are even more anxious to speed away from this intersection, so if they are given a choice, they will not stop in any of the businesses. It occurred to me one day as I was attempting to make a U-turn in order to make a purchase. I struck up a conversation with the manager of that establishment and was told that his business had an average monthly loss of 18 percent since the wall went up - a loss shared by other nearby merchants.
One of the first lessons I learned, years ago, was that a planner should always include those most affected by the process. While I am sure that a public meeting was held at the beginning, perhaps all of the implications of these road construction plans were not understood or explained.
The second lesson I learned is to constantly poll those affected to see if the improvement has created more serious problems. Often, what seems to be a perfect solution to a problem will create other issues that overshadow the original problem. Obviously, there are issues created with this project that need to be examined.
Perhaps the difficulties in maneuvering through the traffic, the hardship brought on by construction, and the loss in merchant revenue are worth the benefits we will gain once the construction is completed. Perhaps what appears to be, on the surface, the slow progress and lack of logic which government often has embedded in its halls is only a careful and intensely planned endeavor.
But for what a private citizens opinion is worth, youll have to show me. Tomorrow I have to contend with the Orange Menace again, and it wont disappear when Halloween is gone.
(Dennis Jones is a Martinez resident.)
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