On the Road

August 2002 - Can we talk - just for a minute - about how hard it is to get anywhere these days? I'm not talking about getting anywhere in the general sense of, "Gee, it's really hard to get ahead in life." Or, "Gee, it's hard to get a jump on the competition." I'm talking about this: For people who live in the Harrisburg area (i.e. me), it is very hard to get anywhere. Literally. These days, you can't get from here to there without driving through a construction zone and/or a detour. It's driving me crazy!

Here's my situation. I live in Dillsburg and work in Harrisburg. There are several ways for me to get to work. The routes vary slightly in distance but, timewise, they all take about 30 minutes. They also all require taking Route 15 north into Camp Hill. PennDOT currently has that section of Route 15 messed up as it converts the Lisburn Road intersection into an interchange. While the work is being done, I have to drive on temporary roads that are narrow, uneven and poorly marked. The work has been going on for about a year now, so I'm used to driving at 60 or 65 MPH on these roads that are narrow, uneven and poorly marked. Tractor trailers encroaching on my lane? I don't think so! They don't scare me. I'll pass them. And I'll pass you, too, if you don't get out of my way.

Now, it used to be that once I got past the Lisburn Road construction, I was home free. I'd just zip through Camp Hill, take the bypass across the Harvey Taylor Bridge, time the lights on Second Street in Harrisburg, and BOOM!, there I'd be, right at work. Ah, those were the days. The days before PennDOT also decided to do a major overhaul on the Harvey Taylor. The bridge is currently closed nights and weekends. You can drive over it during the day - if you want to risk blowing out your tires. Much of the bridge surface is now just a metal grid. The rest of it is covered in sections that "Clang! Clang!" when you drive over them. It's loud, scary and not worth the few miles I save.

So, to spare my tires and my ears, I tried out a couple of alternate routes that took me through downtown Harrisburg. I avoided the construction on the bridge, but consistently ran into another hassle. Delivery trucks double parked on each side of Second Street. It creates a situation where three lanes of one-way traffic must funnel into one lane. My strategy was to stay in the middle lane, but other drivers hadn't figured that out. They started getting in my way and on my nerves. Why should I always have to be the one to let them in? I feel a case of road rage coming on.

In an effort to keep my calm, along with my sanity, I now take the long way around. Once I get into Camp Hill, I take Route 581 west to I-81 north. My exit off I-81 is just a minute or two from work. Granted, this route is the longest, and it means dealing with more trucks. But, I'm spared the Harvey Taylor and the aggravations of downtown traffic. But, shortly after I made this my regular route, PennDOT began installing sound barriers along 581. The road is down to one lane sometimes, but it's usually not a very long stretch. I don't like it, but (deep cleansing breath) I can deal with it.

PennDOT, however, apparently cannot deal with it. It already has a plan worked out to keep frustrating me well into the future. You see, after the Lisburn Road project is finished next year, work will start on another part of Route 15. The part right by the Camp Hill Mall. The part right by the on-ramp to Route 581. The part that is my only gateway to a fairly stress-free ride. As Charlie Brown would say, "AARRRRGH!"

Will I ever have an easy drive to work again? I doubt it. Not as long as there are roads to be fixed. And not as long as PennDOT is around to fix them.