OUR VIEW: Drivers need to be patient

By Observer editorial July 11, 2014 07:55 am
Oregon, the joke goes, has two seasons: winter and road construction.

Since the only ice now is in people’s drinks, and the heat wave is flexing its muscles, it must be road construction season. And that means flaggers along the road trying to prevent chaos and anarchy.

Even today, when air conditioning no longer means rolling down the window and letting in some oven-baked air, many drivers see flaggers and see red. Drivers’ trips are being delayed. Their precious time is being wasted.

It’s time to look at the bigger picture. Take the massive construction project under way this year and next on Interstate 84 up the canyon west of La Grande. Think of the smooth sailing once the project is completed in 2015 and of the three lanes up the steepest of the hills that will alleviate congestion and some road closures in winter.

Flaggers who are working at the closed entrance to I-84 on the northwest corner of La Grande report encountering some overheated drivers. Some put up a real stink. Others think they can navigate a construction zone on their own and do not need to follow signs.

Face it. We are a country in a hurry. Every year it seems to get worse, as we rush from place to place, always running late.

How much better for our collective blood pressure and overall health would it be to just take a deep breath and practice patience. We can appreciate the challenges flaggers face. Imagine standing for hours in the hot sun. Imagine having to explain to red-faced drivers that the road closed sign really does mean road closed, and that the detour might take a five-minute bite out of their day.

People need to respect what the hard work flaggers do and treat them with dignity. Drivers need to follow the speed signs in construction zones and drive carefully, especially when around workers. Remember, fines, already large, double in construction zones.

Drivers need to slow down. Oregon’s two seasons — winter and road construction — are as inevitable as the March winds that rattle the blacksmith anvils we use in this region for chimes. Any time we take a trip, we need to figure that we will face road construction and budget extra time. Leave home sooner. Plan on taking longer. Take a deep breath, exercise patience and enjoy the drive.