Kramerica’s Freeways

Someohow, Kramerica made it to my hometown.

In one week, I had the privilege to see both sides of how the American government works. Somehow, they can be both incredibly efficient and painfully inefficient at the same time. It all depends on the job.

It’s a given that the government can’t get simple things done. So much so, that you have to preface any difference as the exception. Well, this week was one such exception.

Driving towards Portland in the morning, there’s no escaping traffic. Even if you get up at 5AM. But there was always one part of the morning commute that was relatively pain free. The first three miles or so where the the freeway expands to a third lane was rarely congested because us peons would have the chance to expand. Until this week. Tuesday was normal. But on Wednesday, it was stop and go right off my exit. I figured it was an accident. Then I got to this gem:

Traffic Revision

Read: Misery Ahead

Okay, so they were going to do some roadwork. The third season of the year, road crews blocking every conceivable path to a destination. But no, there were no cones or trucks on the side of the road. Instead, as I was about to change to my usual lane, I was greeted with this:

Black out lane-lines one and three, and a four-lane highway becomes a two-lane comfort cruise.

Yep, somehow, they took away an entire lane overnight.. Overnight. Without warning even. And this wasn’t some temporary, orange cone job either. It had paint, egg bumpies, and everything. Like it had always been that way. And it covered more than a mile at two major merge points. Overnight!

Meanwhile, last winter there was a piece of a city dock that broke off from the rest of it during a major winter storm. They retrieved the 20-foot piece and set it right next to main portion. Fixes were supposedly supposed to be done in about 3 weeks.

Fast forward over 8 months, and it’s still not done. One of my coworkers got curious and wrote the city because the broken dock was part of our walking path. And he gets a message “Greetings, We had an engineer assess the structure and compare the winter damage against current codes for in-water structures and work. The engineer’s estimate reported that it would cost $1.1 million dollars to construct a new dock for the badly degraded long section that parallels the river.”

Million Dollars

With all the inspections, re-engineering, coding fees…

Over a million dollars. To fix a 20 foot section. They went on to say that it would end up costing less to build a new one, so it will remain closed indefinitely. 100 years ago if a dock broke, someone could just put a few two by fours and a piece of plywood over it and fix it in a few hours. Now? A crew of engineers and more than I’ve made my whole life.

How could it cost so much? And take so long? They’ve already proven they can work quickly… That’s when I realized the truth. The government can work efficiently….

But only when they’re making life miserable.

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