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Column - Bigger, better, newer, safer?

Spring is here at last! Soon we'll be enjoying April showers, May flowers and - best of all - road construction! One of the most significant projects on the schedule for this summer is the rebuilding of County Road 42 and County Road 11. After be...

Spring is here at last! Soon we'll be enjoying April showers, May flowers and - best of all - road construction!

One of the most significant projects on the schedule for this summer is the rebuilding of County Road 42 and County Road 11. After being debated and delayed for several years, it looks like construction will push through this spring.

Although I drive this route almost every day to get to work, I'm not too worried about the inconvenience, since I also have an alternate route that I often take.

The people who I really feel sorry for are the ones who live on that section that will soon be under construction. Not only will they have to put up with the road being torn up all summer, but when it's done they'll have lost half their yards and trees, not to mention the country feel that made them buy homes there in the first place. But, at least they'll get to live next to a brand new superhighway!

Lately, the road has become particularly bad and is filled with potholes. I suppose it makes sense that you don't waste too much money on repairs when you're planning on rebuilding; yet its also true that if you want a new road, delaying repairs makes the road seem worse than it really is and helps justify the major construction.

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As someone who drives this road almost every day, I really don't see a problem with it the way it is, at least not anything that couldn't be fixed with a good re-surfacing. There's no denying that the road needs some repairs, but the major reconstruction that is planned is neither needed nor wanted. It's way overblown and inappropriate for the setting.

The most often used excuse for rebuilding and widening the road is safety. Personally, I think it has a lot more to do with the idea of "progress" and the idea that bigger and newer is always better. The safety issue is just a smoke screen to get the project pushed through.

Of course, there is a risk of an accident occurring on these roads, just as there is on any other road in the county. Yet for the traffic these roads get, things flow well and traffic accidents are rare. And even though there is a risk of a pedestrian or bicyclist getting struck - it is no more likely than on many other roads, or in town, where people drive even faster.

Regardless of what the actual speed limit is, if the road is wider and straighter people WILL drive faster and there will be more accidents.

This project is a perfect example of a local government that has become out of touch with the people and is determined to give them what it thinks is best for them - whether they like it or not. It's also a perfect example of the tendency for people in this country to see anything old-fashioned as being outdated and in need of replacement. Unfortunately, newer isn't always safer, and bigger isn't always better.

I know it may be hard to understand for some people, but isn't it just possible that the people who live along or beyond these roads chose to live out that way because they like the rural setting and country roads? Isn't it just possible that they are willing to put up with the "inconvenience" of having to drive slowly, and accept the responsibility of keeping themselves safe if they choose to walk along the road?

The bottom line is that this is a country road with a country feel. Yes, there will inevitably be accidents on the road whether it is rebuilt or not, but with a superhighway instead of a country road, they're going to be a lot more severe when they do happen.

The greatest tragedy, however, is that we're giving up the rural character that drew people here in the first place, just so we can get to work one minute earlier and entertain the illusion that nothing bad will ever again happen.

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The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.
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