More random musings from the road

The last few days, I’ve gotten stuck in huge construction traffic jams caused by “Oversize Load” trucks getting stuck in spots they have no place being in the first place.

Each state requires an Oversize/Overweight Load Permit for excessively wide and/or heavy vehicles to travel on that state’s part of the Interstate Highway System. Normally the permit will spell out the route being permitted, along with requirements for pilot vehicles. You’ve almost certainly seen those – usually pickup trucks with a huge “Oversize Load” banner, flashing lights, and a 14-foot (or taller) pole they use to detect undeclared low bridges. So much for the background…

The other day, it was in Peoria, just before the Illinois River bridge. Construction had traffic down to a single lane where the Interstate dipped down under an overpass. Which was all well and good, until an Oversize Load truck carrying a 120-foot-long wind turbine blade got stuck under the overpass. The truck made it down into the dip just fine, but when the road began to rise on the other side of the overpass, things came to a screeching halt with loads of sparks and pieces of overpass as both ends of the blade tried to achieve an elevation higher than the overpass.

Today, also on I-74, there was construction west of Indianapolis as they’ve decided to move Interstate 465 (the loop around Indianapolis) somewhere else. This apparently is a further refinement of the moving of the airport that they were doing last year.

This was well-marked for miles ahead of time, with many signs that said “Loads over 10′ 6″ must use next exit” and so forth. As traffic crawled for several miles, I saw what I thought was causing the delay – a tractor trailer with an “Oversize Load” banner stopped in the left (only) lane, with people milling around in confusion. It seemed to be some sort of air handler device for cooling an office building, and was signed as 12′ wide. As traffic slowly drove around it, there was another one stopped a few hundred yards ahead of it. That wasn’t it either – as traffic split left for I-465 north and right for I-465 south, there was a third one, wedged tightly between the concrete barriers of the I-465 north ramp.

First truck

Note the completely useless pilot vehicle between the first and second trucks:

Second truck

Here is the third truck, wedged between the concrete barriers:

Stuck truck

Now, Microsoft Streets & Trips (which I use to pre-plan my driving for the following day) lists these construction areas. In fact, the Indianapolis one has been listed in the S&T construction database since before the start of 2011. Presumably, both the truck drivers and the permit-assigning people have access to at least that level of construction information. And it isn’t like there were no signs in either case… Given that the cost of a single wind turbine blade of this size starts at a quarter million dollars and goes up from there, you’d think they’d take more care with the things.

Other random observations, mostly from out West:

It seems that something like 20% of the vehicles have cracked windshields, ranging from a simple diagonal crack to ones resembling spiderwebs. Being low down in an Atom gives me a unique viewpoint, and the cracks are very noticeable.

A surprisingly large number of passengers ride with their feet up on the dashboard. That doesn’t seem like a particularly wise thing to do, given the possibility of an accident. Either the leg bones are going to go through their torsos if the vehicle accordions, or they’re going to wind up with an ankle embedded in their skull if the airbag deploys.

From Oregon through South Dakota, there were a fair number of hitchhikers on the sides of roads. I thought that went out of favor in the early 80’s? Perhaps it has something to do with the economy… Once I got into Iowa, I didn’t see any more. There was a “Picking up hitchhikers prohibited” sign in Iowa that may have something to do with it. That doesn’t compare to the “Hitchhikers may be escaping inmates” sign that I saw in Kansas last year, though.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.