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Sunday, June 7, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Expect road repairs

Last week I wrote of resisting anger over traffic delays.  I wonder if our current living restrictions will make people more tolerant, or less. It will likely yield both outcomes — some becoming shorter-fused and others more tolerant, seeing things as minor compared to the virus.

Hopefully, the latter will be the case as seasonal road work ensues.  No one likes to encounter road work while driving — expecting detours, single lanes, and lowered speed limits.  Although we dislike the slowdowns that come with them, those signs also represent good things to come:  better roads!

Though we may not shriek with glee when greeted with road-work signage, we should expect and accept it.  I hear no shortage of complaints about potholes and stud-caused ruts during the winter, so bouts with road construction are really just foreshadowing the smooth roads to come.

The main way to exhibit calm in work zones is to observe the construction speed limit.  Reduced speeds are posted for the safety of both motorists and workers — infractions are heavily fined.

Several hundred miles of I-90 east of here through Montana and further are commonly under construction each summer causing restricted segments of 5 to 25 miles in length.

Engineers implementing the work zones are definitely mindful of safety and efficient traffic flow.  With traffic used to travelling at a normal 75 mile per hour speed limit, construction slowdowns and reduced-lane transitions must be well designated and designed.

One of the two lanes normally available for traffic in each direction is generally open, requiring no stops or pilot cars.  On occasions where both usual same-direction lanes were closed, nearby exit and entrance ramps are employed as detours.  Sometimes, a new temporary road is constructed adjacent to the freeway for an unencumbered detour route.  Given such efficiency, there’s no good excuse for anger over the construction. 

If not for the safety of themselves and workers, one might expect drivers to slow down to avoid the risk of being cited for speeding in those zones.  Something that Washington, Idaho and Montana all have in common is that fines for infractions in work areas are increased from the norm (doubled and mandatory in Washington, for example).  There’s a valid reason for that:  Statistical data of construction zone worker injuries reveals evidence of their vulnerability.

Unfortunately, it seems that many drivers are willing to risk cost or mayhem, since virtually every time I curb my speed to comply with a construction limit, an impatient driver is tailgating.  Risking the monetary penalty is one’s prerogative, but putting construction workers lives in unnecessary peril should not be.

The impatience is unwarranted.  A one-way trip to Billings from Spokane normally takes around 7.5 hours with one stop (Deer Lodge is just past half way).  On a past trip, observing the construction (about 200 mile of the 540 mile trip) and non-construction speed limits, the trip took just over 8 hours.  And extra 30 minutes should not be a major issue.

Expect construction delays on both local roads and interstate highways every summer.  In states with a harsh winter, it’s the only practical time to make repairs.

It would be ideal to never face road construction.  But the result of that reality would be ever-deteriorating roadways.  So expect summer slowdowns for road repairs — in the big picture, they will be minimal and your consideration will enhance safety for everyone involved.

Readers may contact Bill Love via email at precisiondriving@spokesman.com.