I’ve written about the kind of disaster a 30-minute drive from home to the CAF hangars in Camarillo can turn into when there’s a major accident on the one main freeway that goes in that direction. Today my 30-minute drive got turned into a 65-minute drive by a different type of disaster – CalTrans.
CalTrans – the California Department of Transportation. Or, in this case, the California Department of Pissing Off Tens Of Thousands Of Travelers & Burning Millions of Gallons of Gasoline for No Damn Good Reason. (I guess it doesn’t just roll off the tongue that way.)
In brief, I tried to get on the freeway. Blocks from the onramp, the main street I was on was gridlocked. I assumed there was some problem between me and the onramp, so I doubled back a mile to the previous onramp. More gridlock as I approached the onramp. Double back another two miles to the previous previous onramp. More gridlock, and I can see that traffic on the freeway is almost completely stopped. I manage to at least get onto the freeway and start crawling back to the west, which is at least better than sitting on the streets a half mile from the onramp and going absolutely nowhere.
Is there a major accident on the freeway like there was in November? A brush fire? A bridge collapse or some other catastrophe?
A half hour later, the problem is obvious. Some genius at CalTrans decided that 9:00 on Saturday morning was a good time to close three of the four lanes for a couple miles to do routine maintenance.
Nope, couldn’t make this shit up.
Wouldn’t you think that this sort of thing would normally be done at night or some other time when the freeway wasn’t being used by a couple hundred thousand cars? Even if you had to do it at night, wouldn’t you be warning people for days and weeks in advance with signs on the freeways and onramps?
Well, you might think that, but the brainiacs at CalTrans apparently missed that small bit of common sense.
This weekend out in Riverside County, sixty or seventy miles away, the 91 Freeway is closed in both directions for two days for some major construction. They’ve got a cute name for it (“Coronapocalypse,” since it’s in the Corona area) and they’ve been on the news, in the papers, freeway signs even out here, two counties away.
Last weekend they had a similar thing through downtown LA to demolish a bridge passing over the freeway, and again we got bombarded with warnings to avoid the area and maps of detours for those who couldn’t avoid it. They had a cute name which I can’t remember.
A couple years ago they had complete freeway closures in both directions for three days for the first time, in this case on the 405 Freeway through Sepulveda Pass, one of the busiest freeways in the country. It was “Carmageddon!” and for two months beforehand we couldn’t go ten minutes without hearing about how bad it was going to be and how far away we needed to be to avoid getting cooties.
When they’re going to be working on an offramp – a simple, one-lane, out of the normal flow of traffic freakin’ offramp! – for a few hours, there are warning signs up for days and weeks in advance.
But close three of four lanes on Saturday morning and cause a backup that goes close to ten miles – SURPRISE! Gotcha!!
And then they dare to be bewildered when the average person holds them in utter contempt.
As for the (presumably) “major repairs” that necessitated this disaster? They were working on a long strip, maybe two feet wide, in the middle of the #4 lane, all the way up the hill there. Rather, they had a long, long strip marked off with spray paint markers. They had two, maybe three crews of four or five guys digging out patches of that strip. Was the pavement torn up there and in need of repair? Nope. It looked like nothing more than them laying some sort of pipe or cable down the middle of the lane, which makes no sense whatsoever.
Look on their website – no mention, no explanation. Look for news reports or warnings I might have missed – nothing found.
“Hey, it’s Saturday morning – let’s see how many random strangers we can infuriate and make an hour or more late for no reason other than we can! We’re CalTrans, we’re here to help!(*)”
(*) – only for very bizarre and inaccurate definitions of the word “help”