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Thursday, July 25, 2024

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Compass Points – 6-28-2006

By Al Campbell

Regardless how fast I drive, other vehicles whiz past. Makes me wonder what would happen if, as in Germany, we had a speed-limit-free autobahn, how fast would people drive?
It’s bad enough on the Garden State Parkway, especially on Thursdays and Fridays in the summer, when city folk are hell bent to get to “the shore.” Someone opined a long while back that it had something to do with the scent of the salt marshes that turned ordinary people into racecar drivers.
Recently, I had to fetch loved ones at Philadelphia International Airport. It may be preaching to the choir, but people up there drive like mad men. Honestly, if you do 60, they do 75. If you do 75, they do 85 or 90.
Only by divine intervention, more people are spared a fiery vehicular death on those avenues of speed.
There was an interesting show on the History Channel about the construction of the Autobahn in Germany. Surprise, the concept of today’s super highways didn’t start in 1933, when Hitler broke ground for the highway to link his evil empire. German designers had the notion of wide, barrier free highways in 1913. Their early work mimics very closely the super highways of today.
In the early days of the Autobahn, racecar drivers matched their skills and machines against that expanse of road. One German died, when wind caught his speeding racer and both car and driver were carried to oblivion.
Two-lane highways, like Route 47, are just antiquated and awful.
It’s laudable that the state Department of Transportation recently painted double lines on parts of the highway through Goshen, a dangerous and deadly stretch. Too bad more couldn’t be done to make it wider, and thus safer.
If in-a-hurry drivers zoom past me, imagine what impatient drivers think when they are caught behind a really slow driver on the likes of Route 47, or Route 9, where passing isn’t allowed on many stretches. It is maddening, and the cause of many accidents.
Roads in the Garden State did not, and never will, get the full respect they deserve. The byword here is “good enough” roads. It worked for a horse and buggy, what’s so different about today? Cars be damned, let ’em curse and eat cake.
If traffic movement were really a priority in this state, Route 55 would extend to Cape May County. The overpasses would have been built over Stone Harbor Boulevard, Shellbay Avenue, and Crest Haven Road at least three or four decades ago.
Overloaded Mechanic Street would either be widened or made one way. The entire roadway infrastructure around Court House, Cape May, and Rio Grande would have been reworked long before development made the roads there long, narrow parking lots filled with irate drivers on summer weekends.
What should be considered, again, is the need for more mass transit, buses, jitneys, monorails, light railroads that would be encouraged by all levels of government.
If I could conveniently ride the train from Court House to Rio Grande, and back home again, why would I drive a car, pay nearly $3 a gallon for gas, worry about upkeep and insurance?
I would rather read a paper and simply walk off the train or bus at my stop, and leave the driving to someone else.
No one seems to care about such stuff, so we gas up, fight each other for parking spaces and put the pedal to the metal to pass cars driving the legal speed limit.
Traffic engineers, come south. There is work to be done and money to be made. Please obey the posted speed limits getting here.

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