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They Are Tearing Up The Joint!!

I absolutely detest the colors orange and white. This is not because they carry any negative connotation or bring flashbacks of a personal, deplorable memory. As colors, themselves I think that they are lovely individually. They work as a team pretty well in most instances as well; like when expertly wrapped around a fine piece of candy corn or adorning the flag of my Alma Mater, The University of Illinois. Then, they are simply blissful hews.

The colors are reviled only for what they represent to myself and Chicagoans everywhere:


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It seems that every street, freeway and cul-de-sac is undergoing some sort of building or refurbishing. Mile after horrid mile of cones or “horses”, as my Father called them, the city’s thoroughfares are lined with them. This can only mean one thing: there is some sort of inconvenience about to take place during your commute. No passage is safe from the scourge that reaches into the very bowels of the city and stretches its jagged tentacles through miles of suburbia.

Some sites are small enough to quickly drive around while some require the patience of Job to get through. Additionally, it seems as though these colors not only have an effect on the infrastructure, they also have a subconscious power over some people’s driving abilities. The faint-of-heart seem to become even more skittish behind the wheel while the extrovert in his GT car of raised 4×4 turns overtly aggressive.

Legislation has put the hammer down as well and caused these colors to be looked at with further disdain. Enforced speed limits in construction zones is an excellent idea that saves lives, but how do you protect workers who aren’t even out there. Some zones I pass never have workers present – at least when I am there. Some have sporadic work going on. On top of narrowed lanes and detours, we now have to endure crawling along at a speed well below what would be deemed safe by any of the people it is charged to protect. One thing is for sure; Ol’ Smokey is always present to keep a watchful eye (whether organic or electronic) on those of us strong-willed enough to defy the signage.

I appreciate the improvements as much as the next guy, but when does it end? If it isn’t a road getting repaved, it’s a nearby public facility that effects traffic or utility work blindsides us out of nowhere. Let us not forget that the winter months are the worst. There is nothing more maddening than an order of road repair with heavy traffic on the side and the inevitable stalled car in the middle of all that further impedes and already lethargic traffic flow.

I took 5 months in 2014 and drove to different parts of the city just to see if there was any inequity. There was not. The evidence of jackhammers and bulldozers are everywhere. After a month of snapping photos, I concluded that there is a big boom in construction or there are a lot of people taking up quarry digging as a hobby. The North Shore, Downtown even the North and West Suburbs are laden in a sea of auburn lights and silvery reflectors.

Why the construction overkill? According to construction workers I know personally and have met throughout the years, it’s a matter of economics. When you have a job (“job” = construction site you are assigned to), you are paid only until the work s finished. If your company doesn’t win the bid on the next major project, you have to have something in between to keep the money coming in. This is why you may see a street busted up or a hole that’s been dug for months that never seems to get fixed. Those sites are stop gaps in between the big jobs every company needs to survive. When things are slow, you can then go back and patch a hole of restructure a curb.

It makes sense from that standpoint. However, from a Motorist’s point-of-view, it seems that we are inundated with all this construction going and nothing ever seems to get fixed! Others say that funds come and then dry up or are misappropriated by Government. Contractors contest that, as with every project, there are delays and unforeseen problems that can only be worked out on-site. These are all good defenses, but not good excuses. The city is being gouged, hammered or clawed at from all sides. If the city keeps this up, where are we gonna go?

Take the train or bus, you say? Stations and terminals on almost all routes are being built or renovated and many more are scheduled even as we speak. Commuters have to take shuttles to spots just outside the construction zones. This slows down the ride home as much as 45 minutes and sometimes more.

What’s wrong with Chicago? They started rebuilding it in 1871 and obviously, it isn’t finished yet.


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