Ah yes, its that time of year again. Summertime you say? Well, partially correct. But the season I speak of is construction season! (Was that a collective groan I heard?)Well, this construction season has an added bonus to it this year. Oh yes, gas prices that would challenge Jesus to not say Goddammit should he go to fill up! But this blog entry will not be a "Whoa is me" fest. No, this entry is my opportunity to tell you about a place that I've always said was the construction capitol of America. Yes, my hometown of Chicago, Illinois.
I have been across the United States, and I have not been anywhere that is as perpetually under construction as Chicago is.So what is the purpose of road construction? Your guess is as good as mine. See, for my 29 years on this earth, the city of Chicago has more or less pretty much looked the same. Sure, downtown could be considered Manhattan by Lake Michigan (Urban Gentrification at its best). But a lot of the neighborhoods still look as they did when Dr. King decided that the west side was the best side, and moved his family there in 1966.
So again I ask, what is the purpose of road construction? To build or improve a roadway? Sure, in most places that would be a correct answer. But this is Chicago, and in Chicago, road construction is to placate both government and the citizenry. So every March or April, you start seeing the familiar orange barrels showing up on your local roadway. They stick around until September or October, and then go into hibernation until Pulaski day rolls around again. And that road that they were working on? Well, lets just say that if you're lucky, once the orange cones are removed, it might last as long as a white guy fighting Mike Tyson.
So you may be asking yourself "well how does something like that placate both government and the citizenry"? Well its simple my friends. In this world, the big money is not found in curing a damn thing. You make big money by doing just enough to keep people living with whatever their particular ailment happens to be. So as it relates to road construction, instead of spending 250 million dollars to put down the state of the art roadway that may require an additional 1 million dollars of maintenance per year,(the equivalence of a complete face lift) they opt for the annual 50-75 million dollar road resurfacing (or the botox treatment).
Do the math with me. After 10 years, the state of the art roadway has only cost 259 million dollars. (250 million, plus 9 years of maintenance). But the annual 50 million dollar resurfacing in that same span will cost 500 million dollars.
Now you might be asking yourself, well isn't it in our best interest to spend less? Spend the 259 and save ourselves 241 million. And to that I say, why are you thinking logically? This is Chicago. We are the city of Al Capone, Larry Hoover, and the biggest, baddest gangsta of them all, Richard Daley! And what do gangstas do, they run rackets. So here's one of his.
Lets say that Lake Shore Drive is starting to get a little bumpy. More than what your average citizen is comfortable with stomaching. So through a lengthy process, money is allocated towards fixing Lake Shore Drive. Sure, the city of Chicago may kick in some of that dough, but in large part, the funds will be coming from our dear old Uncle in Washington. (Thank God for Bobby Rush, Jesse Jackson Jr., Barack Obama and Dick Durbin).
So now you're probably gonna ask yourself, what's wrong with that? That's what our tax dollars are for. Well in part you are correct. But if you're buying that every single dollar that comes in goes towards its stated purpose, then might I also interest you in buying a boat. Its only been used once, its already in the water. They made a movie about it, and I'd be willing to let it go for only ten grand. (I accept cash, checks and paypal).
And to continue the racket, which construction companies get those lucrative contracts? Well I'm sure that you'll find that those companies are politically connected. You gotta pay to play. Oh, and the workers who will be doing the work? Well of course they pay taxes, and spend the money here in the city of Chicago, so that helps increase the city caufers as well. Ah yes, the circle of life, just as our Lord envisioned it!
Now, I do want to give credit where credit is due. Again, I am 29 years old. And for the first 28 years, the Dan Ryan Expressway was the kind of construction boondoggle that I described previous. In the winter time snow, ice, salt and snow plows would tear parts of the road into an obstacle course for for your shocks, rims and tires! Come March, the road was patched up, and inevitably, every winter it would return its semi-natural state. Concrete Swiss cheese.
Well, like a Hollywood starlet edging ever closer to 25, the Dan Ryan got a complete makeover. And it is nice! Props to the city for finally upgrading to Platinum status. I was tired of driving from the Kennedy and transitioning to the Ryan, and feeling like somebody from the south side had obviously pimp slapped someone in city hall for us to be stuck with such a debacle!
So to my city from your prodigal son. Unfortunately, we get it. We know what's going on. You're not fooling anyone. All we ask is that you spread it around. South side should get as much as north. And west side definitely needs just as much as downtown. (Hell I don't like going to the west side). And last but not least, slow down in the work zones, give 'em a brake! (Plus the construction cameras are back).
P.S. About that boat, holla at ya boy!--drizadre