Tuesday, March 04, 2014

It's all in how you prepare and how you respond

It took me 16 hours over two days to get from Dallas to Memphis.  Part of that was because I-30 was slowed to a horrible crawl yesterday between Greenville and Sulphur Springs, a 25-mile drive that took four hours.  Dallas was fine, and after Sulphur Springs we made great time all the way to Bryant, AR, where we stayed the night.

We stopped there, even though Memphis, under normal conditions, would only have been two hours away.  However, even then we knew that I-40 was a virtual parking lot between Brinkley and West Memphis, because the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department had not adequately prepped the roads for the winter blast of Sunday night. (we got that in Dallas, too: it was 82 on Saturday, 22 on Sunday).

Also, the I Drive Arkansas app would not work at times, so I drove on US 70 between Hazen and Shell Lake, and drove on roads that were covered in ice, and I STILL kept moving and making better time than I-40, which paralleled US 70 for a good portion of the trip.  We made that part of the run in roughly 3 hours.

We got back on 40 at Shell Lake about 2:45 PM, only a few miles outside of West Memphis.  It moved well until we got to near the Airport exit and everything stopped.  From that point, it took two hours and 30 minutes to get across the Desoto Bridge because of the road conditions.  We couldn't get good information, and the Crittenden County Sheriff's office hung up on me.

The AHTD and the State Police pretty much had a complete failure.  They KNEW this was coming, and they didn't pre-treat the roads, and we had the disaster that we had, and I-55 from the Bootheel to West Memphis was even worse.  There is no excuse for this situation, and this is what limited, reduced government of the type the Tea Party wants to force on us will bring you.

If taxes have to be raised to ensure that the state of Arkansas has the infrastructure necessary to prevent a recurrence, then RAISE THEM.  I-40 between Little Rock and Memphis is said to have the HIGHEST percentage of semi-truck travel in the UNITED STATES.  Their failure to prepare and then react has affected the commerce of the entire country, which matters more than a frustrated middle-age couple going from Dallas to Memphis.  Hell, there are trucks and people STILL on the damned expressways over there with no real idea how they are getting out of it tonight.  All the truck stops in West Memphis are FULL.

One of the things I thought of while driving in the middle of all this was that how this might have been different if, A) they had prepared properly, and B) we had TWO more bridges across the Mississippi River in this area.

It's time to COMPLETE THE BELTWAY.  Let's extend I-269 West from Millington,around the north end of Shelby Forest, around the junction of I-55 and US 63/I-555, then down on the western side of West Memphis, down around Horseshoe Lake, and across the river to meet the western end of I 69 near Tunica.  This would greatly ease the truck traffic around the city, and might have helped get rid of the slowdowns.

(Cue SMART CITY MEMPHIS screaming about sprawl!)

Too late for that, what sprawl we have has already taken place on the eastern edge of I-269/TN 385.  I seriously doubt that if this were to take place, Turrell, Arkansas would suddenly have 50,000 people move there, and same for Horseshoe Lake.  We need serious infrastructure improvements, and this would be spectacular.  It also would reduce the in-town semi-truck traffic for Memphis, and that is something we would all like.

Add to that the building of I-69 from here north to the Kentucky border, which is necessary AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, and we might just have something.

It's time to start building SOON.

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