MY GOODNESS, it must be spring in Toledo. The calendar didn t tell me. The orange barrels did. And, wait, this just in: In the coming weeks, more orange barrels will be placed throughout the city in its ambitious 99-mile repaving project.
But hey, we re Toledoans. We can deal with more congested traffic if our roads are being improved. Some will be annoyed, like those who were upset with Mayor Jack Ford for not sending a crew to fill in every new pothole as it developed in January and February when the roads were still beaten down with snow, ice, and salt.
Most of us know that in our easy-to-get-around-in city, not even road construction projects will make driving here what it is in a major metropolis. We have boasted about being able to get from one end of the city to the other in a mere 20 minutes.
These days, however, we may need to add five or 10 more minutes to that 20, depending on where you re going. Thanks to the new developments in metropolitan Toledo urban sprawl, they call it, but that s a subject for another time it takes longer to get to your destination.
But despite the sprawl, North End residents who need to make a quick trip to the South End can usually get there in less than half an hour. So Southwyck Shopping Center doesn t have what you want (no surprise there) and you want to dash over to Westfield Shoppingtown Franklin Park, but it s 45 minutes before that mall closes? Just hop back in the car and drive safely. You may make it before the mall closes, providing it s not the Christmas season.
Toledoans know that the absence of major traffic headaches is a plus to living here. That s not to say the area lacks traffic problems.
They do exist.
The Westgate and Franklin Park areas and West Alexis and Secor roads are among them. Mid-afternoon to early evening trips out I-475 toward the U.S. 23 junction is no Sunday drive. And thank goodness that the Ohio Department of Transportation will review updating the I-75/I-475 junction near downtown. We can also be grateful that traffic delays on the Craig Memorial Bridge on I-280 will disappear when the new Veterans Glass City Skyway opens next year.
Toledoans don t need a study to tell them that getting around here is still a cinch compared to, say, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, or Washington, D.C. But it s nice to have support for what we know. The Texas Transportation Institute s analysis says Toledo motorists spent 12 hours longer in their vehicles in 2003 because traffic didn t run smoothly, and it cost $110 extra in lost time and wasted fuel. In 1982, each Toledo motorist only lost a single hour and $7.
Don t complain about losing a half day a year in a car because of slowed traffic in Toledo, due mostly to accidents or motorists with car trouble. Our numbers look good compared to Los Angeles motorists, who lost 93 hours at $855 each that year. Detroiters lost 57 hours and $499, and Columbus motorists lost 29 hours and $264.
Really, most Toledoans might not mind a few more minutes in traffic if the streets were in better condition. Been on the east end of Dorr Street lately? How about out Collingwood Boulevard between Nebraska Avenue and the Anthony Wayne Trail? Your seat belt should already be buckled, but brace yourself for bumpy rides on those roads.
I admit I was as vexed as some about the potholes in the city last winter. But I also know potholes come as sure as ice and snow in the cold months in northwest Ohio. For the most part, it doesn t make a whole lot of sense to try to fill every one when temperatures are still below freezing.
But city crews are about to fix these problems. So in the coming months when I m slowed in traffic because streets are being repaired, I ll try to remember that and try not get my knickers in a twist.
Rose Russell is a Blade associate editor.