Why it Seems Every Road in Merced is Under Construction


Why it Seems Every Road in Merced is Under Construction

There are days when I think Merced is the road construction capitol of California. I wonder if our mascot should be the orange "dunce cap" safety cone and whether our community slogan should be "Reduce Speed Ahead. "When singer/songwriter John Michael Talbot visited Merced in the spring of 2011, he had this observation about the number of road repair projects going on in the city: “I’m glad Merced has decided to fix the streets, but did they have to do them all at the same time. ”That comment brought laughs to his audience at St. Patricks’ Church, and at that time it seemed as though a lot of road construction was taking place.

Last year, we had the G Street underpass and the 18th Street downtown project underway along with a few others.If John Michael Talbot was to come back for another visit today, he’d probably have the same view. Why does it seem as though every road and bridge in Merced is being repaired, repaved, rerouted, or blocked off? The East Yosemite Avenue project near G Street just wrapped up, but we have projects on G Street near Bear Creek, overpass work on Highway 99 at both ends of the city, and the Parsons Avenue corridor near Ada Gibbons School in the city to name a few.

Federal stimulus dollars that spurred several construction projects last year have stopped flowing into the City. The projects going on in this construction season were likely in the repair pipeline for a number of years. Most of the work is paid for through state and federal dollars set aside for highway repair.I suspect that this year is like any other year in our City’s history. We expect a few roads will get needed overhauls on a programmed annual basis. Some motorists’ discomfort through the peak of the season is the relatively small price we pay for improving the community.

I extend my sympathies to the stores, restaurants, and professional offices that are inconvenienced due to the road work. It’s difficult enough to run a business in this economy. Anything that gets in the way of making it harder for the customer to get to the threshold of a local store is something most merchants worry about. When I see highway work underway, I think about the men and women working on the project.  My dad did highway work for a few years when I was growing up. It was a hot and hard occupation in the northeastern United States.

In the Central Valley, road construction in ninety degree plus summer days is really tough work.If you've ever been on the major state and federal highways during the summer months when overnight road work is underway, you'll see another group of people working the graveyard shift so that traffic can move smoothly during the day. So slow down, think about how much our community will be improved once the work is done, and be thankful a lot of people are bringing home respectable paychecks (and spending the money locally) as a result of these investments in our infrastructure.

We'll live with the little inconvenience construction creates in our lives.If I had a construction hard hat, I'd tip it in respect to all the folks who are putting our roads back together with sweat as well as asphalt.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced