Monday, July 8, 2019

I-95 proves that the government cannot provide services that don't suck

We drove back from the holiday weekend on I-95 yesterday.  I know, I know.  What should have been a six and a half hour trip was thirteen and a half.

I-95 is instructive.  It is the main Federal highway for the most populous portion of the Republic, running through the "Northeast Corridor" between Boston and Washington, D.C.  With over 50 Million residents it's the only significant chuck of the USA that approaches European population density (17% of population in 2% of the land surface).

Fortunately, I didn't drive the portion shown.  I drove the Southern portion, from Columbia SC north to Frederick MD.  This is the portion that is illustrative of why government simply cannot deliver services that don't suck.

For those readers who blessedly have not had to drive I-95, it is a national disgrace.  It has been congested for as long as I can recall (over 30 years of personal experience with the stretch shown, and what we drove yesterday).  It has been congested in exactly the same locations for those 30 years.

The same exact locations.  30 years.  Offered for your consideration, the 20 miles on each side of Fredericksburg, VA.  It was a parking lot in the 1980s; it was a parking lot yesterday.  The reason then was that the highway lost a lane (more lanes in Richmond to the south and Washington to the north).  The reason now is the same.

So riddle me this, Big Government Man: how in 30 years is it not possible to widen 40 miles of Interstate to remove what everybody in the Northeast Corridor knows is a notorious choke point?  And please don't be so dim and predictable as to say "there isn't enough funding" - we spent a cool trillion dollars on a "stimulus" that the President swore would be "shovel ready" projects.  You don't get more shovel-ready than widening I-95.

So we see that it's not possible for the government to provide services that don't suck.  Even a trillion dollars can't fix this.  Now multiply by all the myriad things that the government thinks are (or should be) its purview, and the result is inevitable: more crummy public services.  I mean, everyone at the Department of Transportation knows that Fredericksburg is a nightmare - they all drive it.  And they can't get it fixed, even with a trillion unbudgeted dollars.  And this is only one 40 mile stretch of a single highway.

And yet we have an entire political party running for office on a platform that the government should be responsible for even more of the economy, and of our lives.  They promise even more "services".  I'd be more impressed if they'd fix I-95.  Granted, that's a very low bar, but they can't even seem to do that.


libertyman said...

I came back from Maine this morning, and avoided the Maine turnpike (95) entirely. I can't imagine it yesterday. (Actually I can, so I didn't even consider it) They are widening it so that there will be a high speed toll lane(s) so no stopping or slowing down as they automatically take your money. Exit 2 used to be 15 cents, now it it is $3.00 for the first mile or hundred miles. The old toll bridge in Portsmouth was 10 cents , until it was paid for, then it was free!!

I made the trip from New England to DC many times, even making the trip at Thanksgiving one year. So I know that part of it well.

Are there tolls on your section of 95 that you used?

Nothing like coming back from a vacation getaway, exhausted from traffic!

Anonymous said...


South Carolina 95 is 2 lanes in each direction - with dropoffs beyond each shoulder making it much more expensive to widen - because when the interstate system was built 30+ years ago there would never be any additional people or cars in the country to use it in the future.


Government exist to offer jobs to people whose sole skill consists of FUBARing everything they touch or even think about.

Traffic is a pet peeve, from inadequate roads to non-existent traffic light synchronization to short, and non-existent, turn lanes. We pay the price in lost productivity daily caused by incompetent road and highway management and we're supposed to be grateful that government drones finally bless us with wider roads 20 years late that cost $3X to build and take 4X as long to construct as they should.

Anyone with a double digit IQ could have seen the growth coming. That's not who government hires, however.

Borepatch said...

Libertyman, I used to avoid the Maine Turnpike like the plague. No tolls until we got to the DC suburbs, when I was happy to pay to zip past the idling traffic.

NoName Smith, South Carolina was a breeze, traffic-wise. One slow down in North Carolina (Emporia?) but it was Fredericksburg that really stuck in my craw. They know the hot spots, and how many cars pass through there. The prioritization of the projects can only be based on politics, because it sure isn't based on actual trouble on the ground.

Old Windways said...

I was driving back to MA from VT this past Sunday and passing through the one Tollbooth I have to deal with in NH (on I-93). There is a high-speed lane (2 lanes actually) for EZ-pass that is supposed to let you continue through at 65 mph without having to actually stop (or reduce speed to 15 mph) at a booth. This is normally a blessing (at least compared to the alternative), but this Sunday, for the first time that I can recall, the herd mentality had some idiots slowing down to 25 mph in the two lanes that are supposed to maintain 65 mph (and which have explicit signage prohibiting stopping). It is depressing to realize that even if they fixed the infrastructure issues, we are surrounded by idiots who would still ruin it for everyone else with their driving (this is to say nothing of the accident that brought traffic to a halt in a 2 lane section of I-93 south a little further on).

ASM826 said...

The ones making decisions are flying in private jets. Why should they care what roads are like for the proles?

waepnedmann said...

ASM826 said...

The ones making decisions are flying in private jets. Why should they care what roads are like for the proles?


Why would .gov want to

HMS Defiant said...

Used to work in Air Force Plant 19 and then NOLF IB and drive home to Encinitas after I lived in Del Mar Heights and Solana Beach. I-5 and I-805 came together15 lanes of highway narrowed down to 4. Of course CALDOT made it much worse for years by working to widen the road.


Aesop said...


It should be national policy that all roads leading into D.C. be dirt, forever, forbidden to ever be paved, for a minimum of 5 miles in any direction.

I would pay additional taxes to institute that policy tomorrow.
The airports serving the District should also be shortened and torn out, so as to only accommodate light planes and dirigibles, while rail service should be statutorily limited to freight trains only.

If the leeches had to stay in the district, or walk there, or ride public transit on a muddy dirt road, we'd get a better class of corruption and incompetence nationwide, and a lot less of it.

Ken said...

You don't suppose there are some Shining Ones who think the Fredericksburg parking lot is a feature rather than a bug, suitable for nudging us kulaks into the Acela queue (regardless of anyone's actual reason for being in the Fredericksburg parking lot).