No signs of life

March 12, 2007

So where are the extraterrestrials on Highway 101?

So where are the extraterrestrials on Highway 101?

They have to be somewhere along the 40-mile stretch between San Francisco and San Jose. I mean, if the space alien rumors are indeed documented and packed in a classified filing cabinet positioned in some basement on the grounds of Area 51, then there must be a few sprinkled in a storm sewer along Area 101. Yes, I have determined that this line of mile markers has been the deep secret of the highway pavement industry. This has to be where the future of mixes is mastered, the next generation of striping is stirred and the potential of intelligent transportation systems is posted.

OK, I tried. I really wanted to put a positive spin on my jaunt from the Golden Bay to the San Jose International Airport. But if I could spin this truth by you I could have easily talked about the time I shook the hand of E.T. after he handed me my own personalized autograph. Both would fly like a pig in concrete.

The truth of the matter is, I found Highway 101 to be the most repulsive excuse for a state route I have ever traveled in the U.S. Here’s just a bitter taste of what I saw:

  • There had to be at least six different types of pavement. Some were infected with cracks and potholes;
  • It was raining the day I was traveling and a couple of segments of pavement had the
  • The merge lanes were about as long as Shaquille O’Neal’s forearm. OK, maybe they were a few feet longer, but nowhere near the distance necessary to make a safe entrance or exit onto the highway;
  • One portion of Highway 101 had at least two different sets of pavement markers and striping. The older ones were removed, but with the sun glaring off the wet pavement I did my share of swerving hopelessly to find the proper position;
  • At 9:30 a.m., congestion reared its ugly head to the point I was ready to poke out its bulging, bloodshot eyeballs. Wait, those were my eyeballs; and
  • Absent from this “What Not to Drive” education were sign tutorials. You know, the ones that tell you if there is gas, lodging or restaurants at an upcoming exit. Perhaps I’m spoiled in the Land of Lincoln, but when you are returning a rental car it helps to know where to fuel on the way back to the airport.

Believe it or not, there were a couple of positives dripping from the juices of this roasting. Most of the concrete pavement I was on contained longitudinal tining, and I believe there were spots of variable message signs with what appeared to be accurate travel times. Of course, with all the blood rushing to my head during this flight of frustration, I may have just thought I saw the digital wonders of travel.

The people in the state of California made a pledge for pavement, passing a bond measure that will donate a stunning $19.9 billion for highway projects. The reconstruction of Highway 101 should be highlighted, starred, underlined and in bold at the top of the list. The first strike should land on the merge lanes. They need to be at least 50 yards longer. Then I would decide on a pavement. Right now, it has enough conflicting personalities to be confined in a mental institution. And whatever the surface, it must provide adequate drainage. New striping and markers should follow.

It’s not rocket science; nothing I am saying is “out there.” It’s time for those responsible in California to come back down to earth and act on it.

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