A day at the office
At one point on Friday, there was a NINE AND A HALF MILE BACKUP at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel! To Norview Avenue! NINE AND A HALF MILES!

Every time I hear someone wanting to give the government more power and to let them spend more money on this program or that program, I think about our traffic situation in Hampton Roads.

A backup of that magnitude in our metro area is inexcusable. Highway traffic (especially on our interstates) is the lifeblood of our region. Unless a bomb went off in the tunnel or a ship crashed into one of the bridges, there should NEVER be a tie-up like that.

If you owned a business and someone dropped a big messy jar of something at the only door in and out of your establishment, what would you do? Take four or five hours to clean it up, or would you swoop in, scoop up what you could, mop up the rest, and worry about who to blame afterwards?

NO ONE seems to care about the effect of these government indecisions on "the folks". Whether it is tolls on paid-for bridges, carefree cleanups at accident sites or not scraping the on ramps during a snowstorm, you just have to wonder who is in charge and what they are thinking.

Are these the same people that 53% of the population want to be writing rules about health care, educating our children for 12 hours per day and judging you on what you can and cannot think about other people?

I think it all boils down to caring. Yes, caring.

If you are a small business owner (like the one with the spill at the door), your number one, excuse me, your NUMBER ONE priority is pleasing the customers and making it easier for them to do business with you. It doesn't matter if you have a hardware store, a medical practice, an earth moving company, a construction firm, a car dealership or a law firm. You realize that your business is only as good as your customers allow it to be. 

Ask yourself this: what sort of businesses do you have the most problem with? 

You might say the cable company, the phone company, your insurance company, the hospital, the bus company, etc. Usually you have the most frustrating and consistent problems with big, monopolistic companies. Why? Because if you had problems with a small company and they didn't fix the problem, you would never go back. They would eventually go out of business if they sucked. End of problem... But with large monopolies and government, you have no choice and the government agency that sucks NEVER goes out of business.

Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of folks in government and big companies that care. (This week I had a very nice lady from the office of the Virginia Beach Commissioner of Revenue call me to work out a problem that I didn't even know I had.) The problem is that the system isn't built to care and it does not foster an environment where it rewards those who do. In fact, it is often built to reward and protect those who absolutely do NOT care.

When the single, most important highway into our region had a 9.5 mile backup, did you notice any alternatives being offered? Did you see any haste at clearing the situation? Did you find any penalty given to those that caused the problem? Did you even know why it was backed up? Who took the hit? Governor Chris Christie of NJ is getting his butt roasted over a situation at the GW bridge between NJ and NYC which was 'man-made', but isn't EVERY breakdown of that highway man-made? What about excoriating the housewife who was texting while driving and crashed into a school bus, tying up the road for 3 hours?

Bottom line, we need more government managers who get compensated as if they were running a business. Perhaps we tie the pay of the manager of the HRBT and the bonuses to their employees, to the number of cars which make it through the tunnel each day. A nine hour backup would cause their daily compensation to drop by half. I bet that would get their attention!

Our president wants to take more of my money in taxes. He claims that under his watch, the deficit has decreased more than it has under any recent president. Well, duh! The Republicans won't let him spend anymore!!! But if Nancy Pelosi was still in charge of the House, does anyone think that we would be getting better service from these myriad new programs he would be starting (and which would NEVER die)?

I don't. 


Craig Hollins said…
My bugbear with the roads is the "safety" of the road workers. We come across road works on a 100kph (I'm too lazy to convert for you) road and we have signs slowing all traffic to 60. Fair enough - these workers deserve to work in a safe environment, just like you or me.

The problem is they tend to err on the side of caution to ridiculous extremes. Signs stay up even when no works are going on. Work could involve someone working on the verge on a side street. Construction workers could be on the other side of concrete safety barriers. And the works take months to complete, sometimes years because scheduling their various contractors is more important than getting the work finished quickly.

I propose that we impose a "fee" on all construction companies. You can slow the road but you've got to compensate the road users. Something simple like $0.10 per km/h reduction per metre per lane. Block one lane of a 60kph road for an hour over 100m and the bill is $3,6000. Two hours and it's $7,2000. Sounds like a hell of a lot of money but if you've inconvenienced thousands of people it isn't a lot. As you know this is a requirement to do the work, you'll work that figure into your quote.

Suddenly construction companies have to think long and hard about closing roads and imposing speed limits. They will also get the work done faster because that means fewer road closures and more profit. The money raised goes back into paying for the roads.

I can see this working for building construction too when they close lanes so their trucks can get in and out.

It's just one way of imposing the cost back onto the monolithic corporations instead of making Joe Public carry the bill all the time.

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