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Editor's notes: Traffic is bad and it’s going to get worse
Jeff Whitten

I was going to write about county administrator Ben Taylor’s socks this week. They’re argyle and sleek, the kind of socks movers and shakers wear in the corridors of power as they move and shake.

That’s why if I wore socks, I’d wear socks like Ben’s.

Or, instead I’d get battery powered socks, the kind that twinkle when you push a button in your pocket.

That’s the way to win friends and influence enemies. Twinkle your socks at them.

But I digress because there are more pressing things to write about. Like the lousy traffic, or the bad mood so many people seem to be in.

In fact, sometimes it seems the entire U.S. has its collective knickers in a twist (it does) and I have a theory on why.

I believe it is largely due to the fact some people have more than they can ever use and others, many more others, don’t have enough of what they need to get by.

Some don’t even have argyle socks. Even worse, some don’t have feet to put in them.

That those poor souls who don’t have what they need continue to work hard to stay afloat rather than scalping all the idle rich is a credit both to the poor and gated subdivisions, but that’s beside whatever point I’m trying to make.

And that point is that it seems we’re all kind of grumpy lately, with a storm brewing and things about to hit fans hither and yon, according to one email I got.


I blame it partly on what we’ve been brought up to expect, we Americans in this great gilded age of easy credit and social media and marketing firms.

In short, we’ve been sold at and marketed to so much we’ve been convinced we’re God’s gift to the universe. We’re the greatest bunch of consumers who ever consumed, and in that regard the customer is always right so when something doesn’t go our way, well, our drawers crawl another nook up the old cranny and somebody’s going to pay or I’m calling the TV news to expose them.

Our politicians don’t help matters, either.

Instead of telling us the truth, which is that we’re in a giant mess and heck if they know how to get us out of it, we’re told we don’t deserve whatever it is we don’t deserve. Nope. We deserve better, so something’s wrong somewhere.

Some people actually swallow this, just like they believe it when politicians start pointing fingers at people who look different or speak another language and say our problems are their fault.

Local officials, to their credit, haven’t started pointing fingers at anybody over this terrible traffic. But it’s my pet peeve.

Traffic has been bad and getting worse for decades, and now it’s so awful drivers like me sit in traffic for weeks, aging by the nanosecond as we fume at the people in the minivan with the Ohio tag in front of them, and hoping they’re not fixing to move in down the street.

But I don’t blame them. Hey, if I were from Ohio I’d move to the South, too.

Instead, I blame developers, not that I know many. Still, those I do run across usually seem the salt of the earth, hardworking titans of industry and all that. And, it evidently pays well.

It’s just that they go around knocking trees down and putting in driveways, like it’s in their DNA or something. Worse, they generally operate without any keepers, meaning they’ve been running amok from here to Rincon and beyond, developing up a storm in every direction since the 1990s.

If it was one or two spots maybe it would be OK, but it’s the entire Coastal Empire (that’s Georgia) and Lowcountry (that’s South Carolina). There’s rarely a break from it, anymore. It’s not like the old days when you could cruise I-16 from here to Macon and hardly see a car.

Of course, what happened on the other side of Macon was downright scary, and lots of folks I know would come back from a trip to Atlanta looking like they had PTSD and Tourette’s Syndrome combined.

Their hands would shake and their eyes would twitch and they’d babble R-rated babble about I-75.

And now it’s happening here.

Lord help us, it’s happening here.

Sometimes, when I’m stuck 20 minutes in the slow lane on I-95 trying to exit at (pick your exit) and hoping I don’t get squashed by a tractor trailer, I have thoughts of revenge.

These generally tend to center around the notion that if there’s an afterlife for developers, it would be poetic justice for them to spend eternity stuck with full bladders in the slow lane trying to get off the interstate in Pooler.

With luck, their air conditioning will break and their pickups start overheating too.

But there’s good news.

There’s always good news and my job is to find it.

In this case, fortunately, Highway 144 in Richmond Hill is about to be widened.

The orange traffic cones were put out there this week. Oh boy. Only five years to go.

The optimist in me sees it as progress, the next big thing.

And then the optimist in me looks at Highway 21 from Springfield to Port Wentworth and shakes its head.

It’s a mess, Highway 21.

But once, not all that long ago in the great scheme, 21 was only two lanes.

Then the trees started going down and the houses started going up. People followed in their cars and pickups, and big box retailers and convenience stores followed the people.

And traffic was even more awful.

So the road was four-laned to handle the traffic, but that just provoked developers into knocking down more trees and replacing them with more stuff, which brought in even more people in their pickups and cars.

And traffic was even more awful.

More dangerous, too.

So, after spending millions to fourlane roads to speed things up, they put up lights everywhere possible to slow things down. And traffic is still awful.

The optimist in me says maybe this time will be different. Maybe this time, a four-lane road really will be enough.

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