The gas mains in my neighborhood (and other Cleveland neighborhoods) are 100 years old.
One hundred years of brutal Cleveland winters featuring a freeze-and-thaw cycle that destroys our roads (and tires) every year. One hundred years of home vacancies (and break-ins by copper thieves and metal scrappers), demolitions, restorations and new builds. In other words, 100 years of abuse.
I, for one, was happy to hear that we were getting new gas mains. The maintenance of natural gas lines, like electricity and electrical lines, is not something I want my utility providers ignoring. A couple of years ago, during a routine check – something Dominion does periodically in older neighborhoods – workers found some leaks in both my interior and exterior gas lines. I even wrote a column about the experience of having those lines repaired and replaced.
At that time, I learned the main gas lines that service the street were the same age as the decaying line that served my house. So, when the earthmovers and heavy trucks recently showed up in the neighborhood, I was relieved and happy.
Several weeks later, I – like most of my neighbors – am frustrated and annoyed and running out of patience. They start work at 7 a.m. and the last trucks and trailers move off the street around 6 p.m. For nearly 12 hours a day, there's a constant barrage of noise and dust, and the street, sidewalks and driveways become nearly impassable for long stretches.
However, I have to say that the contractors are very accommodating; the minute they see someone trying to drive down the street or enter or exit a driveway, they move their vehicles, workers and equipment out of the way. Still, with almost every street in a 10-block area included in this massive project, it can take a while to maneuver through the neighborhood.
And that's when things become ugly.
With the massive Innerbelt bridge project in Cleveland causing lane shutdowns and the closure of many entrance and exit ramps of I-90, my neighborhood currently is used as a cut-through by many drivers coming into the city from the suburbs who are hoping to avoid traffic backups.
Many of these drivers already are frustrated and running late by the time they get to the neighborhood and despite the presence of 100+ construction workers and massive pieces of construction equipment as well as lane closures, holes in the road surface and posted speed limits of 25 mph, they think that attaining speeds that would make Formula One racers jealous is the way to go.
A couple of days ago, I watched a driver whip around a corner and immediately slam on his brakes and stop to avoid crashing head on into a dump truck that had the right of way. And I watched him suffer a complete meltdown. Although his car windows were rolled up and the ambient noise level was loud, I could hear his cursing and screaming from my front porch and as if there was any doubt as to what he was saying, the accompanying hand gestures said it all. The dump truck driver moved out of his way as quickly as safely possible, and the car sped off.
One of the construction crew had stopped to watch the show from my front walk. I asked him how often workers or vehicles were nearly hit by distracted or frustrated drivers. He responded, “Every day. And not just 'nearly.'"
He explained that almost every person on the crew had been brushed by a car at least once during the weeks-long project, and almost every truck and piece of construction equipment had been dinged. All of the “Slow Construction" signs and flaggers were ignored; construction cones were run over or moved out of the way; and crew members, who were cautioned to yield the right-of-way, moved out of the way as quickly as possible and still, near misses were an almost daily occurrence.
I mentioned how polite everyone working on my street had been, and how accommodating. He laughed, shrugged and said, “That's good to hear, but we're just trying to stay alive."
So, on behalf of the contractors working on my street and all streets during “orange cone season," I'd like to ask you to drive a little more cautiously and slowly through construction zones.
Send an e-mail with your thoughts to [email protected].