Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Carmageddon, Day One

Day One of the Highway 40 closure wasn't the nightmare some expected, but the real impact remains to be seen next week, when everyone's back at work.

Most of my callers this afternoon reported minor problems at worst, and those seemed to be akin to growing pains. If you've taken the same route to work for years and now you have to find another way to get around, there's a learning curve. For instance, some listeners chose Ladue Road as an east-west alternate, only to discover that it's one lane in each direction and gets backed up because of all the traffic lights through residential areas. Now they know better and will choose another alternate tomorrow. Some who opted for mass transit realized that standing on a Metrolink platform waiting for the train on a windy 19 degree evening was less fun than being stuck in traffic in a warm car.

You live, you learn.

St. Louisans are always resistant to change, and this is a big change for some, but we've been telling you for months about this project -- I've interviewed MODOT spokeswoman Linda Wilson within an inch of her life about every aspect of the closure -- so you had plenty of time to prepare.

There are still those who refuse to accept that the highway is now closed. They keep whining that someone should do something about it, that MODOT shouldn't have committed to blowing up the overpasses until the real impact on St. Louis commuters could be judged, that the Governor and the legislature and the highway department aren't listening to the public. The problem is that these complainers are the ones who haven't been listening. They have to get past their denial stage and move onto acceptance. It's done, it's happening, now adjust your life and deal with it.

This construction project isn't going to be a picnic for me, either. Highway 40 was the main artery I used to get from my house to KMOX everyday. Now, I'm among those who have to make the commute on I-44. Still, I'd rather they close the whole thing down and fix it for two years than have to deal with doing the slalom through orange-cone hell for six or seven years.

Here's the oddest suggestion of the day. Rich, another listener, remembered that bricks and other parts of Busch Stadium and the old Arena were sold to fans as memorabilia, and wondered whether we could make arrangements for pieces of the soon-to-be-broken-up highway to be sold for some charity. My reply: who would want them? People who bought those bricks had an emotional connection to those buildings because of the sports events or concerts they attended, not to mention first dates, anniversaries, birthdays, marriage proposals, and business deals that were celebrated there. Who has an emotional connection to a highway? No one remembers anything special about the McKnight off-ramp, or got their first kiss while merging into traffic at Spoede Road.

Then again, the Cardinals did sell those urinals from the former Busch Stadium, and someone bought them, so maybe there would be a buyer for the rusted guardrail MODOT removed today.