I don’t know whether it’s the Texas Department of Transportation as a whole, or it’s just a few folks farther down the totem pole, but those people really need to learn how to plan.
My wife and I recently took a weeklong trip up to the Midwest, and on the first day of our drive, we were making good time, despite the mess on I-35 through Temple. We planned to take Loop 635 around Dallas to avoid the downtown traffic hassles, and that route worked out well — for about the first 10 miles.
Then the traffic came to a grinding halt. We inched along, a few feet per minute, for more than half an hour. Turns out, they had a lane closed because of some bridge work.
Fine, that’s a decent reason for closing a lane. But why were they doing all this work at lunchtime on a weekday?
We finally got out of that logjam and headed north on U.S. Highway 75. We were really making good time, zipping right along, until traffic came to an abrupt halt.
Just ahead was a TxDOT truck, and workers were placing orange cones in the lane to the left of us and closing it off. For miles, we just crept along, watching drivers trying to merge into the remaining lanes.
Before too long, we had to merge farther right, then farther still, until we were actually directed off the highway and onto an access road, which was already filled with dozens of 18-wheelers — no doubt hopelessly behind schedule.
Meanwhile, in the lanes that had been closed with the orange cones, not an ounce of work was being done. In fact, there were no TxDOT workers to be seen.
After creeping along the access road for about a mile, we were finally allowed back on the highway. But as we looked back at the closed-off section, we didn’t see any signs of construction work.
What the heck was that all about, anyway? Was this just a drill? Were they planning to do some work later that night? Who would know? There were no signs telling us what was going on. Good planning, folks.
Because of all this, it was almost 3:30 p.m. before we hit the Oklahoma state line — and we still had another five hours left in our scheduled drive.
The next five days of car travel were rather uneventful, even with the big-city traffic of the St. Louis area — both coming and going.
But once we got back into Texas, that’s where the fun picked up once again.
We skipped the whole Dallas-area experience this time and drove over to Gainesville, figuring it would be easier coming back through Fort Worth.
Wrong. We didn’t know TxDOT had turned I-35 into a war zone from one end of town to the other, and we hit it around 4:15 p.m. on a weekday. By the time we extricated ourselves from that mess, it was after 5:30 and we were frazzled. Somehow, we managed to make it home safely.
That Saturday, we headed out again, this time to Houston. I was done with mega-highway congestion, so I mapped out a route that took us off U.S. 290 way before it hit the 610 loop. Unfortunately, the surface streets we took were so crowded and the traffic signals so poorly synchronized that it took over an hour to get to our downtown hotel.
Coming back, we took a different street back to 290, but there were so much road work going on once we got there that we had to drive several miles out of our way to get headed back the right direction to drive home.
It was such a relief to get on that two-lane road headed back toward Temple. I never farms and trees could look so good.
I appreciate all the hard work our TxDOT workers do for us each day, but seriously, let’s not make the orange construction cone the official state symbol. It’s really tacky.
Dave Miller is deputy managing editor for opinion of the Killeen Daily Herald and editor of the Harker Heights Herald. Contact him at email@example.com or 254-501-7543.