Abandoned Prosperity

America, for all its supposed wealth and prosperity, has many abandoned places. From natural disasters, to foreclosures, to budget cuts, to rebuilding; I've seen quite a few in my short life-time. All across this vast country people are homeless, when there are many buildings and places that could be "repurposed" to house them. This blog is all about the places I've lived and explored, over the past 50 years. It also involves other things of interest to me, which will become apparent as I continue along. Most places and events I can only remember and have no photographs of them. Currently, I'm active in exploring the current state I live in, Tennessee, when time permits me to do so. Follow along in my foot-steps as I clambour over and sometimes into the abandoned debris of our society...from junkyards to cellars to my own mind.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Past Its Usefulness

I currently live parallel to a major state highway. Route 20. The section of Rt. 20 I'm near is in the central part of the state of Massachusetts. It's a fucking nightmare. In many places there are but two lanes for traffic flow. The section in my area is four lanes from the Auburn/Worcester line to the old Ballard Spring Co. in Shrewsbury, about a 10-15 minute drive East (depending on traffic, it could take even longer to cover the, less than ten mile, span.)

 A few years ago, there was a rather large road-works project to connect the Route 146 corridor from Rhode Island and link it directly to I-290, which cuts through the centre of the city of Worcester. The road-works project also added a new exit to the Mass Pike via Rt. 20. Amazingly, the project was done within the time and budget constraints (or so I'm lead to believe and after viewing the construction over the years I tend to agree upon this and this only.) As for what came later, I can only swear in profusion every time I try to get out of the parking lot.

 Unfortunately, as with so many urban projects, businesses and homes were uprooted and either relocated or dissolved (i.e. torn down). Entire city blocks were demolished and old streets completely disappeared. All in the name of trying to improve the traffic-flow into Worcester. It almost worked. Almost.

As I said, Rt. 20 is a nightmare. I'm not sure what city planners were actually thinking and I can only guess that they (the city planners) must have over-looked the "big picture". Traffic-flow has always been a problem in any city. But when you tie two major highways (the turnpike and Rt. 146) into one state road (Rt. 20), things are gonna get...ugly. In my area the vast majority of Rt. 20 has no centre lane(s) for turning. And the 2-into-1 merge-lanes are even worse and that's when there isn't even much traffic.

The nightmare comes on if there's ever an accident on either the Pike or from other road-works projects in the area, but it's usually due to an accident on the Pike (which usually occurs around the Millbury area.) I noticed over the past four years that the traffic congestion comes mainly on the week-ends and usually starts around late Saturday mornings (around 11.00-11.30), and can last well into the night. On one particular Saturday (the summer of 2011, which was when I took the above photo), there were multiple accidents on the Pike and the ensuing vehicular horde was in "stop-and-go" mode until well past 20.00. In the picture above, the tractor-trailer to the left took a full ten minutes to span the equivalent of two city blocks. I should know. I timed it. The driver then had to merge left and really, who wants to get crushed by a vehicle that outweighs one by forty times as much? Particularly on such a nice day as it was at the time.

Business owners decry that the congestion actually hurts their sales, due to no-one being able to access the parking lot. I find this hard to believe as I've seen the lots pretty well packed even during the rush hours when traffic is at its heaviest. The only thing really hurting sales is the mass of competition in the surrounding areas (and really, how many damn grocery stores does a city have to have, anyway?) The other thing that drives the custom away is the fucking idiots that hang out in the lot, smoke pot and drag-race across it. But I'll save that for a future rant on the city's (lack of) policing.

I say the congestion occurs mainly on the week-ends but can happen at any time during the week. But not all the "back-ups" are due to the cause of a smash-up on the Pike. To be fair to all concerned, there are more than enough smash-ups right in front of my home. One can hear the "CRUNCH" of vehicles colliding quite clearly. Some have been pretty bad. Most are minor. Motourists cutting each other off is a common occurrence and speed is usually a factor. The speed limit is 35MPH from the light at the Greenwood Street intersection, to just over the bridge that spans the flood-controlle canal, which is less than a block away from the shopping centre. I shudder to think of what the average speed is through here but as I do not posses a LIDAR, I can't be certain. I can make an educated guess and say "at least 50-60 MPH". Drag-racing is also common through here, as are pedestrian fatalities. Though I work just across the street, I no longer walk to work. I'm better off to get into my car and drive across. Six airbags are better protection than my clothing is. Fuck having a "reduced carbon footprint".

Rt. 20 needs a complete overhaul. The road can no longer handle the current amount of traffic. An amount that no-one had any foresight of decades ago. The city planners should have a look at how the main streets are set up in, say, Knoxville, TN.

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