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Summer Time Means Detour Time

Sunday, August 03, 2014   by: Mac Headrick

 It is time to get back to producing a weekly column. For the last two weeks Linda and I have been visiting family in Sudbury and friends in Traverse City. Most people think of summer as vacation time. I have come to the conclusion that in addition to “vacation time” of equal priority should be the phrase ‘detour time”. Now I am not complaining. Living in Northern Ontario means a short construction season. Road repairs or construction have to be completed in a short time. 

I have always preferred to travel in Michigan than Ontario. There are obvious advantages. A speed limit of 70 miles per hour means you get there faster. Remember the movie “The Bucket List”? One of the best lines was never passing up the opportunity to use a washroom. Michigan has numerous, well advertised rest stops every 40 miles or so. Due to the divided four lane highway it is safer to drive in Michigan. There are fewer road closures. This summer is the first time I ever experienced a detour on I-75. 

Linda and I frequently drive to Sudbury. It has been said that the only two things for sure in life is death and taxes. I believe construction on the bridge in Iron Bridge might be considered the third constant. I am beginning to wonder if that project is a permanent make work scheme to support the community. To be fair Sault Ste Marie has the Queen Street rebuilding. I have figured out the schedule for this project. The time frame is stated as closed for three months. In realistic terms this means five months. Take the amount of work to be accomplished and assume approximately 60% will actually be done. 

Around Desbarats there were three construction sites on the highway. To my surprise the delay was minimal and the traffic moved quickly. I lucked out in Sudbury. The area Linda and I travel to is the Notre Dame and Lasalle corner. The major construction that dominated this area was completed two days before our visit. In the past I would drive an extra five miles to avoid this corner. 

The only construction site that was difficult to navigate was the toll booth area in Sault Michigan. I was fortunate to be able to access the toll booth line coming back from Traverse City. Behind me the vehicles were lined up well beyond the bridge that crosses the I-75. Naturally the two lanes to access the toll booth were reduced to one just as the volume of traffic had increased. I have often wondered how decisions regarding staffing levels are made. To my surprise three lanes were opened at Canadian Customs. 

Being a resident of Sault Ste Marie construction detours are not such a big deal. I wonder how tourists sometimes navigate around closed streets. I know the city streets pretty well. This means I avoid Wellington Street between 4 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. which is very busy because of the Queen Street closure. It may only be my imagination but do the majority of electric bike owners in the Sault live on Wellington Street? Also do they decide to go for a ride between 4 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. every day? 

The second line bypass has seen dramatic changes the last two years. The work there appears to be on schedule. Regardless of what they do in this area I imagine the traffic will be greatly increased once the new high school comes on board. The arrival and dismissal times at the new high school will be a challenge. No problem for me, all I have to do is to remember to avoid driving there at peak traffic times. 

In Quebec there is a scheduled shut down time for the construction industry for two weeks in July. I wonder how they complete any projects. Perhaps there is something to be learned from la belle province. 

As I see it construction detours are a fact of life during the summer. I just accept this reality. Eventually (I think) even Queen Street will be finished.  

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