Government Bureaucracy turned a small town road into a nightmare.

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Government Bureaucracy turned a small town road into a nightmare.

There is very lit­tle that gov­ern­ment bureau­cracy does not turn into a night­mare. A two mile stretch of road in a small Mass­a­chu­setts town is a per­fect exam­ple of this fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple. Twice in the recent past, a squab­ble between high­way depart­ments at two lev­els caused this stretch of road to be closed for hours, incon­ve­nienc­ing hun­dreds of dri­vers, strand­ing a great many in enor­mous traf­fic jams.

At the root of the prob­lem is the fact that this short, but very busy, stretch of road is a state high­way. Because of that des­ig­na­tion, the town high­way depart­ment refuses to plow or treat the road. This sec­tion is at the top of a steep hill, which freezes sooner than the rest of the road. As you can imag­ine, it is far more dif­fi­cult for the state high­way depart­ment to deter­mine when the road is in need of plow­ing or salt­ing. The state assets are a lot fur­ther away and have a much larger area to plow, so it is far more dif­fi­cult to begin plow­ing in a timely fash­ion. This is espe­cially true in an emergency.

Dur­ing one quick hit­ting snow­storm, a trac­tor trailer jack­knifed, block­ing the entire road. The big rig could not extri­cate itself because there was just too much snow on the road. This pro­duced enor­mous traf­fic jams in both direc­tions. Despite repeated request from the town police, the town high­way depart­ment refused to plow out the truck. It took the state about two hours to respond with the nec­es­sary equip­ment, while the town plows cleared the rest of the streets and roads in town. This road is the main road through the town, and the most con­ve­nient way through a wooded and hilly sec­tion. Most of the cars that were caught up in the traf­fic jams when the inci­dent first hap­pened remained there until the state plows finally cleared out the big rig,

Lis­ten­ing to this on my police scan­ner was incred­i­bly frus­trat­ing, far less frus­trat­ing than it was for the town police offi­cers who repeat­edly requested that the town plows rec­tify the sit­u­a­tion, and had their requests denied. The offi­cers could not under­stand why the town depart­ment refused the requests, con­sid­er­ing the nature of the cri­sis. I could only imag­ine how frus­trat­ing it was for all of those dri­vers who were stuck for two hours.

A sim­i­lar inci­dent hap­pened a few months later, though the delay was not quite as long. This win­ter the same stretch of road keeps icing over because of runoff from a stream. Motorists call the police report­ing treach­er­ous con­di­tions. The offi­cers check out the reports and request the town plows treat the roads. The town high­way depart­ment declines the requests, declar­ing that the state plows must take care of the issues. After a long delay, putting motorists at risk, the state sanders show up. The police also request that the road be fixed so the runoff does not hap­pen. With the cold con­di­tions we’ve been expe­ri­enc­ing lately, this has been a daily occur­rence. After a month this drama still continues.

It seems to me that there is no good rea­son why the town high­way depart­ment can­not take care of this road, espe­cially in an emer­gency. It is a mat­ter of com­mon sense. How­ever, com­mon sense and gov­ern­ment bureau­cracy are mutu­ally exclusive.

There is very little that government bureaucracy does not turn into a nightmare.  A two mile stretch of road in a small Massachusetts town is a perfect example of this fundamental principle.  Twice in the recent past, a squabble between highway departments at two levels caused this stretch of road to be closed for hours, inconveniencing hundreds of drivers, stranding a great many in enormous traffic jams.

At the root of the problem is the fact that this short, but very busy, stretch of road is a state highway.  Because of that designation, the town highway department refuses to plow or treat the road.  This section is at the top of a steep hill, which freezes sooner than the rest of the road.  As you can imagine, it is far more difficult for the state highway department to determine when the road is in need of plowing or salting.  The state assets are a lot further away and have a much larger area to plow, so it is far more difficult to begin plowing in a timely fashion.  This is especially true in an emergency.

During one quick hitting snowstorm, a tractor trailer jackknifed, blocking the entire road.  The big rig could not extricate itself because there was just too much snow on the road.  This produced enormous traffic jams in both directions.  Despite repeated request from the town police, the town highway department refused to plow out the truck.  It took the state about two hours to respond with the necessary equipment, while the town plows cleared the rest of the streets and roads in town.  This road is the main road through the town, and the most convenient way through a wooded and hilly section.  Most of the cars that were caught up in the traffic jams when the incident first happened remained there until the state plows finally cleared out the big rig,

Listening to this on my police scanner was incredibly frustrating, far less frustrating than it was for the town police officers who repeatedly requested that the town plows rectify the situation, and had their requests denied.  The officers could not understand why the town department refused the requests, considering the nature of the crisis.  I could only imagine how frustrating it was for all of those drivers who were stuck for two hours.

A similar incident happened a few months later, though the delay was not quite as long.  This winter the same stretch of road keeps icing over because of runoff from a stream.  Motorists call the police reporting treacherous conditions.  The officers check out the reports and request the town plows treat the roads.  The town highway department declines the requests, declaring that the state plows must take care of the issues.  After a long delay, putting motorists at risk, the state sanders show up.  The police also request that the road be fixed so the runoff does not happen.  With the cold conditions we’ve been experiencing lately, this has been a daily occurrence.  After a month this drama still continues.

It seems to me that there is no good reason why the town highway department cannot take care of this road, especially in an emergency.  It is a matter of common sense.  However, common sense and government bureaucracy are mutually exclusive.