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Column: Just a little road weary

Posted: August 20, 2018 2:45 p.m.
Updated: August 21, 2018 1:00 a.m.

There’s an old joke about a guy who bumps into a friend he hasn’t seen in awhile. The guy immediately notices that his friend’s arm is in cast from wrist to shoulder.

“What in the world happened to you,” he asks.

“I broke my arm raking leaves,” is the unfortunate friend’s reply.

“Raking leaves? How in the world can you break an arm raking leaves?”

“It’s easy when you try to rake them while they’re still in the tree.”

That’s pretty much the way I’m seeing all this road construction we are enduring right now. I know we were trying to solve the messy, annoying problem of heavy truck traffic in downtown Camden. It was sort of like having to do a lot of raking every day.

We, the local motoring public, are just trying to get from point “A” to point “B” -- and it pretty much feels like we have to climb all our trees to rake all of our leaves.

I’m not sure which staggering genius dreamed up and implemented all the road construction projects in and around Camden, but the logistical acumen involved here is nothing short of incredible. I mean, somehow, we’ve managed to time everything so that we can effectively block and delay every single major artery in and out of town, all at the same time, and in an exquisite addition of extra chocolate sauce on the vanilla of normal road construction projects, we’ve been able to do all of this just in time for the new school year.

With one lane in and one lane out of downtown, and only two non-interchangeable ways to and from Camden High School, we’ve managed to build the equivalent of a city-sized Skinner box -- except our box has no possibility of reward whatsoever, just a never-ending slow motion maze.

OK, OK, I know; this, too, shall pass -- just like a kidney stone. But at the moment -- and this moment is now entering something like its third year -- it’s incredibly frustrating.

At the moment, I just can’t imagine another extended period of time tearing up streets, sidewalks and pavement, particularly in the heart of our business district, such as what is proposed with the road diet, the proposed project to reduce Broad Street in downtown Camden to two lanes, widen sidewalks and bring back angle parking.  I don’t care what they say as far as when they believe it would be completed; what I have experienced, with regard to all DOT projects -- indeed, with all public projects -- is that one should tack on no less than two and a half times the amount of time initially estimated,  then multiply that by at least five.

At one point, I really liked the idea of the road diet -- it’s what they’ve done in downtown Hendersonville, N.C., and it really is a wonderful improvement to what was once a pretty down-at-the-heels downtown area. Obviously, Camden isn’t terrible, or even terribly down at the heels. But it could use some help.

Every time I’m up in Hendersonville, I walk around the downtown area and am continually impressed. I’ve often thought, “Wow, if Camden did this, it would really be great!”

And it probably would, if they could do it in “I Dream of Jeannie” fashion. That is, cross their arms, blink their eyes, and it’s done.

They obviously can’t do that, but they do say they can do things to make it easy and relatively painless.

You know, sort of like what they’re doing right now.

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